I used to scoff at my elders who abstained from coffee or tea after dinner time, claiming that even just a drop of caffeine would keep them tossing and turning for hours at night. That’ll never be me!, I thought, downing my fourth cup of the day. Well, I hate to admit it, but as I get older I’m starting to see the wisdom of their ways. Cutting back on the cups of joe was just one step, but these days there is a whole host of tricks I use to sleep like a baby. If you’ve spent one too many nights staring up at your ceiling instead of snoozing, try any of these 7 ways to get the best sleep ever!
1. Create a routine and stick to it. Humans are creatures of habit, so get into the practice of an end-of-day, winding-down routine before bedtime. An hour or two before bed, try taking a relaxing warm bath, reading, listening to an audiobook, meditating, etc. It could even be something as mundane as doing the dishes or tidying up at a certain time each night. Furthermore, you need to set a regular sleep schedule to train your body and mind. Try to stick to this schedule, even on the weekends. If you want to start changing your bedtime to earlier or later, try adjusting it in increments of 15 minutes or so.
2. Keep it a phone-free zone. And not just the phone, but the laptop, kindle, tv, etc. Any electronics with a backlight will inhibit melatonin, and keep the mind buzzing with arousal rather than calming it down. Plus, these devices emit short-wavelength or “blue” light, which suppresses melatonin more than any other. You can reduce your exposure to blue light by using an app like f.lux, which makes your computer’s display automatically adjust throughout the day, turning to a warm amber at night time. It’s easier on the eyes and helps promote better sleep!
3. Cut back on the caffeine and the booze. Sadly, caffeine really does affect the quality of your sleep. In fact, caffeine can stay in your system for up to 14 hours! While some health professionals recommend no caffeine after noon, others are less extreme and suggest discontinuing use 4-6 hours before bedtime. And while you may think that glass of wine will help you unwind and sleep better, the opposite is true. Alcohol disturbs REM sleep, causing you to awaken parched and groggy rather than refreshed.
4. Nap smart. As a kid I couldn’t stand naps, now as an adult I can’t get enough of them! Napping for too long or too close to bedtime, however, can compound the problem by keeping you from falling asleep at night, so if you’re going to nap do so in the early afternoon and only for 30 minutes or so.
5. Ban Fluffy (or Fido) from the bed. This is a tough one to enforce for us animal lovers out there (I happen to find the rhythmic snoring of a snuffling pug comforting!). But the truth is that pets in the bed can cause or worsen allergies, and their movements throughout the night will disturb sleep. Provide them with an equally comfy sleeping space near yours to keep the peace.
6. Turn your bedroom into a sanctuary. If your pillows are hard as rocks, your nightstand is buried in work papers and there’s clutter everywhere, you’ll start to associate your bed as place of stress. Treat your bedroom as a protected space that is to be used strictly for sleep (or sex). Make sure the room is dark and cool. Try investing in blackout curtains, and keeping the room to a cool but comfortable 65 degrees.
7. Learn to let go and de-stress. The number one reason I find myself having difficulty nodding off is because my mind is racing with all of the errands and to-do’s I have going on the next day. Get out of your head by practicing relaxation or meditation techniques to bring focus back to the physical body. If you absolutely must, keep a pen and notepad by the bed so you can jot down any ideas or thoughts, then put it away and make a mental agreement to attend to it tomorrow.
All this talk of sleep has made me tired! What are your tips and tricks for getting the best sleep ever?
Related: Bedtime Rituals for Beauty Sleep
Also by Sarah: How to Become a Better Listener
Photo credit: Moyan Brenn via Flickr; Mark Tomlinson via Flickr