I think by now we all know the importance of sleep in our lives and how we are less competent, more prone to get sick, less emotionally stable, and less motivated when we don’t get enough. However, it can often be “easier said than done” when it comes to consistently getting enough sleep at night. Sleep is so important to our physical, mental, and emotional health that it’s worth putting effort and planning into getting a sufficient amount. Here are some of my best tips for getting good sleep.
1. Don’t exercise or watch anything that will get your heart racing (for example, a horror movie or true crime) within two hours of bedtime. This also applies to heavy cleaning or other major activities too close to bed. Your adrenaline and cortisol take a while to come down and you will feel too awake and revved up to go to sleep.
2. Take a bath or shower before bed. It will lower your temperature and is relaxing, putting you in a sleepy mood.
3. Don’t eat a big meal two hours within bedtime. It is uncomfortable to lie down while very full and can lead to acid reflux. As well, the digestion of your food will keep you awake.
4. Try to limit screen-viewing and harsh lights within two hours of bedtime. Doing so causes your body not to make the natural melatonin it usually does when it’s dark. Your body thinks you’re still supposed to be awake because of the bright light. Indirect lighting or soft lighting such as candle flame or a light on a dimmer is much better for not interfering with your natural circadian rhythms.
5. Don’t lie in your bed during the day. Your body will start to associate your bed with activities other than sleep.
6. Use white noise. Sounds of water, wind, or a fan will lull you to sleep. Sometimes I like to imagine I’m in a tent, in the middle of a forest, at night, during a rainstorm, with the drops hitting against the sides of the tent, while I’m snuggled down into a sleeping bag. ASMR videos on YouTube can also be used for this purpose and offer a variety of soothing noises, depending on your preferences, such as water, crinkling, whispering, and gentle tapping.
7. Make sure the room is cool. 65 degrees is the ideal sleep temp. There’s nothing like a hot room to keep sleep at bay and, if you’re anything like me, cause you to wake up with a headache. Relatedly, make sure to wear cool clothes to bed. I enjoy wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts to bed and keeping socks nearby in case my feet get cold (which will also keep you awake).
8. Write down anything you’re worrying about to handle tomorrow. This practice allows you to sleep stress-free tonight.
9. Use some lavender essential oil in an oil diffuser. Lavender is widely known to aid in relaxation and sleep (and it smells really pleasant).
10. Avoid long naps and evening naps. These will disrupt your sleep at night. Twenty-minute “power naps” can be helpful for getting through the day while sleepy, and they shouldn’t cause any issues with sleep at night.
11. Make sure to exercise every day. This tires the body out so that you’re worn out enough by the end of the day to fall asleep.
12. Rise and go to bed at the same times every day. This will get your body used to a sleep schedule. Try not to change this pattern too drastically even on the weekends. You want your body to learn when it is time for bed and when it is time for wakefulness.
13. Make sure your bedroom is clean and neat. Make your bed every day. Existing in a messy, chaotic area will cause your mind to have trouble settling down. And if there are chores you didn’t get to during the day like that pile of books in the corner you didn’t put on the shelf yet or that pile of clothes you were supposed to put in the washing machine, your mind might not let you go to sleep without attending to them. It’s also a lot more pleasant to wake up in the morning to a clean and orderly environment.
14. Don’t drink 1-2 hours before bed, especially anything with carbonation. Doing so will make you more likely to pee, and the carbonation will give you gas and a tumultuous tummy.
15. Don’t look at a clock if you wake up in the middle of the night. I don’t have a clock in my room, only my cell phone. I make it a point not to look at the time if I wake before morning, because I know it will give me anxiety. If it is still pretty early (say, 1 AM) I often think, “Oh great, I still have a lot of time to sleep. Let me jump online for a bit”. If it’s late into my sleep (say, 6 AM), I often think, “Oh no, I don’t have that much more time to sleep. I have to get up pretty soon”, and this thought makes me anxious and sleep impossible.
16. Make sure the room is dark. Brightness will keep you awake and make it more likely you’ll wake up in the middle of the night. Make sure your nightlight is soft.
17. Make sure the room is quiet. Noise can keep you awake. Use earplugs or some white noise loud enough to drown out ambient sounds such as traffic outside or loud neighbors.
18. Do some stretches. This releases tension in the body and feels good. It relaxes the body and prepares it for sleep.
19. Do a deep-breathing exercise. Take a deep breath through your nose, hold it as long as you comfortably can, then let it out slowly through your mouth. This activity enriches the blood with oxygen which helps you feel relaxed.
20. Get some sun. Getting sun during the day helps keep your circadian rhythms regulated. Getting sun ensures less melatonin will be produced during the day and more at night, when you need it.
I hope these help anybody currently having sleep issues. Please let me know if you have any additional tips for me.