I feel like I hear the phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” way too often these days. And when you say this to me, I don’t find you to be an impressive go-getter. I assume you’re a manic, high-strung, uber type-A personality who’s going to end up stressing me out. While some people naturally don’t need as much sleep as others, the vast majority of us need 8-9 hours a night to be at our best.
I’m sure I don’t need to rehash the vast benefits of sleep, but maybe – either because you’re young or you’ve never had trouble sleeping – you don’t realize quite how important it is. It’s when your body gets to shut down and restore itself, your cells rebuild, and your brain gets a rest. More quality sleep will improve your health, mood, and appearance. If you’re having trouble falling asleep at a reasonable hour or you’re extremely tired in the morning, try some of our suggestions throughout your day for a more rejuvenating sleep tonight.
Stick to a daily routine
Pick a realistic bedtime that will give you eight to nine hours of sleep and allow you enough time to get ready in the morning. Keep going to bed (or trying to) at that time every night. Here’s the trickiest part: on weekends, don’t sleep in more than two hours past your normal wake-up time. So if you wake up at 7 a.m. on weekdays, try not to sleep past 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Exercise helps you expend energy and leave you tired enough to sleep. That doesn’t mean that you should exercise at night, though. While some people find a late night run relaxing, most are peaked by exercising in the evening. If you still want to do something active shortly before bed, try something low-impact and relaxing like yoga.
Cut out caffeine after 3-5 p.m.
In a perfect world you’d never consume caffeine – but let’s be real here. Starbucks isn’t making millions on their mix CD’s. Try not to have any caffeine after about 5 p.m. (if you can, make it 3).
Prepare ahead of time
Eliminate nighttime preoccupations and streamline your mornings by preparing for the next day in the evening. Get ready for the next morning ahead of time: write down tomorrow’s agenda, make your lunch, set out your clothes, gather your materials for work, etc. It’ll cut down on the mental to-do list you run through when you go to sleep.
Stop eating 2-3 hours before bedtime
Some research indicates that not eating two to three hours before going to sleep can actually help you lose weight. While that’s not conclusive, eating right before bed can cause indigestion and wake you up for bathroom runs in the night. Keep in mind that this includes alcohol (which does not, in fact, aid sleeping but actually disrupts its natural cycle).
AN HOUR BEFORE BED
Cut out drinks an hour before bed
The reason for this is probably obvious (2 a.m. pee breaks anyone?). If you need some water to take a nighttime medication or brush your teeth, don’t freak out. Also use the bathroom right before bed.
Nix electronics before bed to wind down
Start dimming lights and turning off electronics (TV, computer, iPod) an hour before bedtime. Leave on as few lights as possible, especially harsh overhead lighting. Turn off or put away anything that beeps, flashes, or make noise. These things disrupt your circadian rhythm and keep your body alert and awake when you should be slowing down.
Learn to mentally wind down too
A lot of people are too stressed and amped up to get to sleep, which takes more than a few days to fix. But you can help this process along by avoiding mentally taxing activities like work you brought home, bills, or homework an hour or two before bed.
And yes, emotions too
While you can’t plan when your boyfriend is going to piss you off or your friend is going to say something insensitive, you can consciously avoid having confrontations you know might upset you right before bed. Granted, sometimes you need to work it out or it’ll actually keep you up. But if the situation will keep until tomorrow, deal with it then. Plus you’re always more likely to say something you don’t really mean when you’re tired and frustrated.
Don’t trot out the mat and get into a heavy, difficult session. Find some simple, relaxing stretches which focus on breathing to slow your body and mind down before bed. (Try this sequence from FitSugar.)
Have a nighttime routine
Shower, change into pajamas, wash your face, brush your teeth, and do whatever else you need to prep for bed at the same time and in about the same order each night. It becomes a relaxing ritual and will start to signal to your mind and body that it’s time to go to bed.
Keep it totally dark
We shared on our Facebook and Twitter pages that something as small as the light from your alarm clock can disrupt your sleep. The solution? Turn it away from you. Get thick curtains which block out light from outside. Try to keep any glowing electronics in your bedroom to an absolute minimum. I started using a sleep mask and couldn’t believe how much it helped with not waking up in the night.
Keep it cool
Your body temperature needs to drop in order to sleep. The optimal room temperature for sleep is about 65 degrees F. If that seems too cool for you, throw an extra blanket on your bed. Women’s Health Magazine also suggests taking a shower before bed to bring down your body temperature.
Have clean, comfortable sheets
Soft sheets that are regularly laundered feel great and help you unwind. Making your bed and your room your sanctuary do more for your psyche than you realize. For an inexpensive option, try ultra-soft jersey cotton sheets or breathable cotton sheets at places like Bed, Bath, & Beyond. Pottery Barn also carries gorgeous, low-cost duvets and comforters for $99 and under.
Wear comfortable clothes
Extend the comfort to what you wear. Wear loose, breathable, comfortable clothes that don’t constrict movement or dig into your skin. I personally love GapBody’s insanely soft pajamas.
Get a noise machine or CD
Absolute silence isn’t always best for sleep. Meditation or sleep sounds can be surprisingly relaxing. You can get a noise machine or just download a CD. Preview which sounds you think you’ll find soothing so you don’t end up annoyed by what you pick.
If you can’t fall asleep within 15 minutes of lying down, get back up
This one may seem counter-intuitive, but all that tossing and turning can keep you up longer. Get up, maybe read a little (nothing too involved or stimulating), stretch, breath, whatever – then try sleeping again.
The main key is consistency. You’re not going to change your sleep habits in one night or even one week. Plus life gets in the way a lot. Just keep trying each night and don’t sweat when you fall off the wagon. If you stick with a regular routine of sleeping, eating, exercising, and work your body will eventually go on autopilot. Good luck!