Getting a good night’s sleep is a huge factor in your health and overall quality of life, yet you may find yourself among the 45% of Americans who have trouble falling asleep and struggle with daytime sleepiness. When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, let alone push through several nights of bad sleep, your body and mind feel thrown off. For some of us, it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep, and it takes more effort to make it happen, but I’m here to say it’s possible. Here are what the pros say can help you improve the quality of your sleep, so your body is recharged the next morning.
You may have heard this one before: exercise can help promote better sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, 150 minutes or more of exercise per week has helped people sleep significantly better, and even made them more alert during the day!
It’s not fun to exercise when you’re incredibly tired, yet there is plenty of evidence supporting the fact that exercise may lead to improved sleep quality. The benefits don’t happen overnight, however; it’s a gradual process, so you’ll have to give it time before you see your average sleep quality improve.
At the moment, there’s no study proving a single type of exercise (cardio vs. weight training, for example) that directly improves sleep quality. So if you’re having trouble with sleep and don’t currently exercise, give it a try.
2. Turn Off Your Phone
This is a tough one for many of us, but studies have demonstrated the artificial light in our gadgets can actually interfere with our circadian rhythm, impacting our overall health and alertness.
“We found the body’s natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short-wavelength enriched light, otherwise known as blue light, from these electronic devices,” said Anne-Marie Chang, PhD, co-author of the Brigham and Women’s study.
The best thing you can do is leave your device off your bed, and definitely don’t use it to help you fall asleep. Yes, it’s so tempting to stream your favorite YouTube videos or infinitely scroll into the depths of Tumblr, but understand it can be part of the reason why you’re so tired in the morning. The tossing and turning just isn’t worth it. The social world can wait until morning, so put your phone away. (Besides, it can be a fire hazard.)
3. Make Your Room Dark
If your body’s sleep rhythm can be disrupted by a small phone, imagine what lamps, night lights, and street lights can do to you! Our bodies need sleep in complete darkness in order to get good quality sleep. (Check out this article if you want to learn the science behind what artificial lights do to your brain and sleep rhythm.)
Ensure your room is as dark as you can make it. Shut off all lamps and devices, turn down your clock’s LED screen (or, better yet, cover it), and invest in some heavy blackout curtains to block any brightness from outside street lights and cars. Let the sunshine be your wakeup call.
4. Stick to a Schedule
We’re creatures of habit, and your body will welcome a bedtime schedule and routine. Make a plan of when you need to be in bed, and start your bedtime routine early. Brush your teeth, get in your PJs, and power down your devices early so you “don’t wake yourself up in the process of preparing for bed.” In other words, do everything a while before you head to bed so you have some relaxation and downtime in between.
It may sound like a difficult task, especially if you have a hectic schedule (or kids), but gradually work towards a bedtime schedule. Keep at it, and don’t feel defeated if it doesn’t happen right away. Soon enough you’ll see yourself in a natural routine.
5. Drink a Cup of Warm Tea
This is a personal habit of mine. The soothing effects of sipping on a warm cup of tea is relaxing, and can help your body get comfortable and ready for bed. Not all teas are created equal, however. If you’re not a tea expert, read the labels before plopping a bag into your steaming cup of water. You don’t want to get a jolt of caffeine from green tea right before bed!
If you find yourself trying every recommendation under the sun, it might be time for you to see a sleep specialist for professional help in getting the rest you need.
Any other habits or rituals you use to promote better sleep? Tell us in the comments below!