- Make sleep a priority in your life. Americans in general are quite sleep deprived. Like exercise and diet, getting ample and good quality sleep is essential to maintaining your health, happiness and lots of other factors in your life. Take good care of yourself – you’re worth it! And when you take of yourself, everyone around you benefits too.
Avoid electronics before bedtime. It is best to avoid electronics in the bedroom in general, but if you do like to watch TV, browse your iPad or check emails on your phone, try to quit using electronics in the bedroom at least an hour before bed. Electronics fluoresce blue, tricking your mind into thinking it is still daytime which inhibits the release of melatonin. Electronics also tend to stimulate the brain. Try more soothing activities like reading a book (light reading – nothing too exciting – and read in a chair or couch, not your bed).
- Reserve your bed for sex and sleeping. Just in the last year, I have gotten out of the habit of reading in bed before bedtime. The only time I get in bed now is when I’m ready to go to sleep. My brain and body are now trained to know that lying down in bed means it’s time to sleep. I fall asleep much faster now.
- Take a shower or bath. Bathing before bed will slightly raise your body temperature, with a subsequent dip in body temperature when you are done. This dip mimics the natural drop in body temperature that your brain signals to prepare you for sleep. Taking a bath or shower in the evening is also a very relaxing activity to add to your night-time routine.
- Create a consistent bedtime and waking schedule. Easier said than done, we all like to stay up later than normal and sleep later than normal. However, your body will thank you for a consistent routine.
- Find out how much sleep you need. Wake up at your desired time for a few days and your body will tell you when it is tired and ready to go to sleep (if you engage in relaxing activities in the evening to allow your body to wind down). Eight is a good average, but some people need less and some more. It can be helpful to place the alarm clock away from the bed so we are forced to get out!
- Keep the bedroom as cool as possible. This is tough in Arizona!
- Keep bedroom as dark as possible. If this is difficult, try using a sleep mask. Sometimes my partner goes to bed later than me – which means her bedside lamp is on. I can fall asleep faster if I slip on a mask to block out the light.
- Don’t eat too close to bedtime. Don’t eat a meal too close to bedtime, or eat a very large meal in the evening. I am sure you, like me, have eaten a big meal before bedtime and went to bed feeling bloated like a ship on the water. If you are hungry before bed, eat a small, nutritious snack. However, make sure the reason you are eating is because you are hungry and not to calm your nerves. This could indicate something in your life or lifestyle that needs addressing.
- Get regular exercise. Regular, consistent exercise routines are one of the best ways to manage stress, stay happy and keep us mentally & physically fit. Exercise will not only help you fall asleep at night, but it will also improve the quality of your sleep. One caveat: Just don’t exercise too close to bedtime. This can be a tough one in the Arizona summers, when it is fun to go out and play in the evening when the sun goes down. Yes, go out and play – a great way to relieve stress – but keep the intensity level down. If you are exercising at a high intensity level, make sure to do it early in the evening or in the morning.
- Keep a journal. If you have something (or lots of things) on your mind that are troubling you and keeping you awake, try writing them down in a journal. This has a magical way of transferring them from your mind to paper so you can get to sleep. Be honest with yourself and don’t be shy to share your feelings in the journal, because this is your journal and you don’t have to share it.
- Consider sleep apnea testing. If you feel tired even after consistently getting eight hours of sleep, consider getting tested for sleep apnea. Symptoms may include loud snoring or interruptions in breathing observed by your partner. Read more here: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleep-apnea/basics/definition/con-20020286
- Finally… This goes without saying, but is your mattress comfortable? There are so many studies now that show the health benefits of sleep. Make sleep a priority and make sure you have the raw ingredients necessary for sleep – a good pillow and a comfortable, supportive mattress. If your body is comfortable and properly supported, there will be less tossing and turning during the night, ensuring the quality of your sleep is the best it can be. When quality of sleep improves, so does the whole quality of your life.
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Here’s to great sleep! Travis Kroodsma