Life coach Debra Smouse shares these 20 important tips to make sure you get a good night's sleep, originally posted on YourTango.
When it comes to taking care of my own physical, mental, and emotional health, I find maintaining optimal sleep habits is key. Fending off sleep deprivation can feel challenging these days, especially when seasons are changing. But if you want to live a life you love, making your wellness a priority by following some specific tips on how to sleep better is critical.
While I'm a big fan of getting adequate sleep, I also know how easy it is to slip into the habit of going to bed late. But once you get out of a healthy sleeping routine, it's hard to get back in the groove, and soon enough you're back to looking in the mirror each day and asking yourself, "Why am I always so tired?"
There are so many attractive options to keep us up at night: from television to Facebook to Netflix, and so on. And when the weather is nice, it's tempting to take a late walk or sit on the porch for a while relaxing instead of going straight to bed.
Even so, there are also many important reasons why we sleep, as well as why getting enough quality hours of rest each night is so crucial.
- Sleep improves memory
- Sleep spurs creativity
- Sleep encourages a healthier waistline
- Sleep curbs inflammation
- Sleep reduces stress
Your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. During sleep, your brain enacts a process known as memory consolidation, during which the memories that are encoded during the day are strengthened. This essentially is the brain's way of "practicing" new skills and reinforcing new information it learned while you were awake, whether French grammar or a new golf swing.
In addition to consolidating memories, your brain reorganizes and restructures them, which can result in increased levels of creativity. Harvard researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Boston College found that "sleep plays a key role in determining what we remember and what we forget," as the brain works to "selectively preserve and enhance those aspects of a memory that are of greatest emotional resonance," which may inspire the creative process.
Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain. In a study of how sleep affects weight loss, researchers at the University of Chicago found, "When dieters in the study got a full night's sleep, they lost the same amount of weight as when they slept less. When dieters got adequate sleep, however, more than half of the weight they lost was fat. When they cut back on their sleep, only one-fourth of their weight loss came from fat. They also felt hungrier."
One of the most eye-opening lectures I've attended was about the body, health, and inflammation. The doctor explained that inflammation is our body's attempt to get our attention. What he called loud inflammation, such as aching joints, is a precursor to those silent big-deal inflammations: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get six or fewer hours of sleep each night have higher levels of inflammatory proteins in their blood than those who get more.
Both stress and sleep have been found to have dramatic effects on cardiovascular health, and better sleep means less stress, both of which mean a happier heart for you!
You may be nodding your head and saying, yes, I know all of this already, but sleep and I are simply are not friends.
I hear you! I know I'm not the only person around who regularly wakes up at 3 a.m. unable to drift back into slumber. If you struggle with sleep issues and find yourself feeling tired all the time, a visit to your doctor may be in order. And in the meantime, give some of these holistic tricks a try.
Here are 20 of the best tips for how to sleep better so you can stop asking why you always feel so tired (that don't even require a prescription).
1. Create a Relaxing Evening Routine
Ease the transition from wake time to sleep time with a period of relaxing activities an hour or so before bed.
- Read a book or practice meditation.
- Watch a soothing TV show (but not in the bedroom).
- Take a bath — the rise then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness.
- Prepare for the day ahead so you don't worry about making it out the door on time
Also, avoid stressful, stimulating activities like doing work, watching the news or discussing emotional issues. Physically and psychologically stressful activities can cause the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol which is associated with increasing alertness.
2. Keep Your Internal Clock Set With a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day sets the body's internal clock to expect sleep at a certain time night after night. I know it's tempting to stay up late or sleep in on the weekends, especially when you're struggling to get adequate sleep, but try sticking to your routine on the weekends, too. Waking up at the same time each day is the very best way to set your body's clock and keep it set.
3. Do the Math
If you aren't getting adequate sleep, do the math to figure out what time you need to go to bed in order to ensure you do. That means that going to bed past midnight doesn't work if your alarm goes off at 6 a.m. If you struggle with going to bed early enough, set an alarm on your phone to remind you it's time to begin getting ready for bed at that optimum time.
4. Listen to Your Body and Let It Overrule the Clock
There are just going to be those days when you're exhausted at 8 p.m. Stop trying to force yourself to stay up until a "reasonable" bedtime and go to bed already! It's your body's way of asking for more sleep without leaving you running late for work.
5. Turn Down the Thermostat
Waking up in the middle of the night is often triggered by your body getting too warm. Keep the temperature comfortably cool. An ambient temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit is typically ideal.
6. Sleep Naked
When you sleep naked, there are no pajamas or nightgowns to get tangled in. Nightwear can invariably make you hotter or anxious during active dreams.
When you sleep naked, it also helps keep your body temperature at the optimal range and better regulate your cortisol levels. If you sleep overheated, your cortisol levels tend to stay high, even after you wake up. This can lead to increased anxiety, cravings for unhealthy food, weight gain, and more.
7. Sleep Naked With Your Partner
Our bodies need to be cool for better sleep, but as humans, we also need physical intimacy. Sleeping naked with your partner gives you the opportunity for skin-on-skin contact, which releases copious amounts of oxytocin, the neurotransmitter that helps you feel good — about yourself, your honey, and life in general.
8. But Don't Sleep With Fido or Fluffy
I confess: I've slept with pets in the past, and you know what? They regularly woke me during the night. Banning your pets from your bed, and possibly even your bedroom, can lead to better sleep and less middle-of-the-night wakening.
9. Exercise Early in the Day
Our bodies need movement. Getting even 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve nighttime sleep quality, as long as it's done at the right time. Exercise stimulates the release of cortisol, activating the brain's alert mechanism, so try to finish exercising at least three hours before bed or working out earlier in the day.
10. Count Your Blessings
If you tend to take your problems to bed, try writing them down and then putting them aside. Better yet, write down your worries, set them aside, and then record your biggest accomplishment of the day along with three things you're grateful for. It helps you seed your dreams with good stuff.
11. Stop Using Your Bedroom For Everything
Ideally, the only activities that take place in your bed should be sleeping or having sex. If you get into the habit of working in bed, watching TV, or scrolling social media, your brain can struggle with separating when it's time to be awake and when it's time to sleep.
This is especially important if you struggle with insomnia because you need to differentiate between spaces and mental associations that should be linked to sleep and those that should be linked to being awake.
Additionally, most electronics emit blue light, which miscues the body into thinking it's time to be awake. If you're someone who is on-call and must have your phone nearby, use the night setting to change the light emitted from blue to gold.
12. Adjust the Lighting
Exposure to both natural and artificial light before bedtime can interfere with better sleep. Too much light, especially those blue tones, disrupts the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps shift your body into sleep. Besides removing electronics from the bedroom, consider adding a dimmer, replacing the bulbs in your lamps to lower wattages, and installing better blinds or drapes.
13. Use Natural Light to Your Advantage
Exposure to natural sunlight keeps your internal body clock on a better sleep-wake cycle. Let the light into your bedroom soon after waking, especially if you're not getting enough sleep. Taking time each day to catch some rays will also continue to encourage your body's relationship with the rhythms of nature.
14. Control Noise Pollution
If noises bother you, consider sleeping with earplugs to block them out. Sometimes, though, you need a little noise. Consider getting a white noise machine or listening to an audio book or some peaceful music to help you settle into resting.
15. Declutter Your Bedroom
Everything carries energy and that includes the stuff in your bedroom. Physical clutter is distracting and draining, especially if you regularly trip over things in your bedroom. If you're struggling with insomnia and have a messy or cluttered room, tidy up all that physical noise.
16. Eat Light Evening Meals
Eating a spicy or heavy meal (hello, late night pizza craving!) may be a recipe for insomnia. Finish dinner several hours before bedtime and avoid foods that cause indigestion. If you get hungry at night, snack on foods that, in your experience, won't disturb your sleep.
17. Don't Watch the Clock.
Staring at a clock in your bedroom while you're trying to fall asleep or when you wake up in the middle of the night can actually increase your stress, making it harder to drift off. Turn your clock's face away from you if this is a habit.
18. Don't Just Lie There
If you wake during the middle of the night and are unable to go back to sleep within 20 minutes or so, go ahead and get up. Put on a robe and do some light activities in a comfortable spot, like reading or listening to relaxing music. If you don't get sleepy again, call it morning and stop fighting it!
19. Redecorate Your Bedroom
Cool-toned colors, such as grays and blues, can improve the quality of your sleep, while warmer shades like red and yellow tend to increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. If you're not getting enough sleep, consider a new coat of paint!
20. Infuse Your Bedroom With Soothing Scents
Fragrances like lavender, jasmine, and vanilla can help you relax while also improving sleep quality. There are plenty of air fresheners and sprays out there, and if you're sensitive to allergies, try an essential oil diffuser.
And while there's no magic wand to address any area of life, sometimes simply tuning into the seasons can help.
Look to the Fall. Mother Nature is readying itself for the sleep of Winter. That makes it a perfect season for you to make more sleep a priority in your life. So give some, or even all, of these tips a try so that you can get better sleep and improve the health of your mind, body, and spirit.
Debra Smouse is a life coach and author who discovered that when she befriended her inner critic, she finally fell in love with life. Get her free e-book and a bi-weekly love note and visit her on Facebook for more.This article was originally published at DebraSmouse.Com. Reprinted with permission from the author.