Arguably one of the most noticeable casualties of our modern lifestyle is our sleep. We constantly trade sleep for more time at work, more time with friends and family, or our hobbies. But a low quality of sleep leads to a low quality of life. You aren’t a harder worker, or a better parent or person because you rob yourself of sleep. In fact, the opposite is true. Your ability to function as a human being decreases with the reduction of hours you sleep. Follow these steps below for a more restful night.
Stick to a Schedule. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself. Our bodies need consistency to thrive. Whatever your weekly schedule is, plan your sleep schedule around it. In addition to making sure that you are getting a minimum 8 hours of sleep, be sure that you are going to bed and waking up around the same time every night and morning - including weekends! Sleeping in on the weekends isn’t really doing you much good, and will definitely backfire come Monday morning when you feel like the walking dead after 2 days of sleeping in and staying up later. Consistency is key!
Food & Drink. For a good night’s sleep, it’s important to examine your diet. Be mindful of what you drink, including caffeinated beverages and alcohol. Limit your caffeine intake after 2 p.m., since the effects of caffeine can stay in your system for hours after intake and disrupt your sleep. Alcohol is another culprit of circadian rhythm disruption. You might think you fall asleep easier after a glass of wine, but once the effects of alcohol wear off, you are likely to wake up several times in the middle of the night. Replace your nightly glass of wine or beer with an herbal tea of your choice and you’ll be amazed at how much of a difference that makes. In case you need more motivation to eat healthier, your diet plays a big role in better sleep. Great sleep comes from foods with plenty of calcium, B6, and magnesium. Make your diet sleep-compliant with walnuts, almonds, cheese, greens, and fish.
Exercise. While it’s true you may feel tired after a workout, exercise actually helps you sleep better. Exercise is a wonderful remedy for disorders that cause sleep irregularities, such as anxiety and depression. Exercise also increases your body temperature, which then drops after exercise and helps your body feel sleepy come bedtime. Just be sure not to exercise too close to when you go to bed, as exercise is a very stimulating activity and you will find it hard to sleep shortly after a workout.
Embrace the Light. Getting plenty of natural sunlight during the day can lead to better sleep at night. Exposure to light helps our circadian rhythm, the biological process that keeps your body on a 24 hour sleep/wake cycle. In addition, exposure to natural light helps you be more energetic and productive during the day. Spend as much time as you can near windows or outside in the sun for maximum natural light exposure. In the winter time, consider investing in a light therapy box to keep your circadian rhythm in check for a better night’s sleep.
Be Wary of Sleep Aids. Over the counter sleep aids can be a good solution to short-term insomnia, but overuse can be habit forming and further disrupt your sleep cycle. Try to use natural sleep aids, such as herbal teas and healthy diet and exercise before becoming dependent on over the counter remedies. If you find that adjusting your habits and natural remedies aren’t doing the trick, it might be time to visit your doctor and discuss other treatment options, as there might be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
Say No to Screens. It turns out that being bombarded by a constant stream of brightly lit information can disrupt your sleep. So imagine what laying in bed on your phone in the dark is doing. We are biologically inclined to respond to light with wakefulness. Hence why we sleep in the dark. Therefore, eliminating sources of light during the evening can make a big difference in the quality of your sleep. In the hours approaching bedtime, avoid your phone, computers, tablets, and even television and opt for activities that encourage sleep. Reading, yoga, meditation, and listening to relaxing music are much better winding down activities than exposure to devices that stimulate your mind and promote wakefulness.
If you do one thing for yourself, aside from a healthy diet, be sure to make sleep a priority. Practice self-care by making a good night’s sleep a goal every night of the week. Your body will thank you.