Sleep is crucial to your health and well-being. Inadequate sleep affects your mood, concentration, and even your ability to learn and remember new information.
Getting enough good sleep has a host of benefits. As you sleep, your body is hard at work repairing damage caused by daily stressors, consolidating and processing experiences, and more.
Our world is an overwhelming source of sensory and emotional overload. Stress, long work hours, a 24-hour news cycle, and more contribute to one-third of American adults getting inadequate sleep.
You can improve both the amount and quality of sleep you get each night. Some methods are simple, others require a bit of planning. All are worth the investment in your health and wellness.
Many of the best ways to improve your sleep fall under the broad category of sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene creates optimal conditions for restful sleeping.
Maintain a Schedule
The first step toward better sleep is regulating your sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps your body recognize when it’s time to sleep and wake.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to catch up on your sleep on the weekends. This disrupts your schedule and does more harm than good. Try to keep your schedule consistent.
Develop a Bedtime Routine
A key component of good sleep hygiene is a solid set of bedtime rituals. Consistency is the key here, just as it is in your sleep/wake schedule. Start by giving yourself half an hour before bed for activities that you find calming and soothing.
Some people listen to music while others stretch, read, or write in a journal. The focus should be on relaxing activities that calm both your mind and body. If you’re a tea drinker, brewing, serving, and drinking a cup of (non-caffeinated) tea can be an exceptionally calming and soothing part of your nightly ritual.
Even the mundane activities of brushing your teeth, washing your face, and putting on pajamas can become part of this soothing routine.
Devices have taken over a large part of our lives. From working on computers to browsing through social media and news feeds, you may find that you spend a large part of your day and evening in front of a screen.
Not only does the blue light emitted by electronics interfere with sleep, but the overstimulation of constant sensory input also makes it much harder to relax and can negatively affect sleep.
Make it a habit to turn away from your devices for an hour or so before bedtime. Give your body and mind a break from the excess light and overstimulation.
Optimize Your Environment
Try your best to make your bedroom a place for sex and sleeping only. If you don’t have a TV in your bedroom it’s easier to resist the pull of that screen. Avoid using your bedroom for eating or work.
Quiet and dark are important for optimizing your sleep environment. Try blackout curtains and a white noise machine to reduce light and noise.
Consider the temperature in your room. Most people sleep better in a cool environment, but maybe that isn’t you. Find a comfortable temperature and try to keep it consistent.
If you’re able, make the décor in your bedroom relaxing. Use colors you find soothing, prints that don’t overwhelm, and keep the room free of distractions.
Good sleep doesn’t only depend on what you do in the evening. Your daytime habits also affect your sleep quality.
Your body rhythms respond to sunlight. Getting outside or arranging for bright indoor light during the day signals your body that it’s time to be awake.
Opening curtains and windows also gives your body the light it needs to regulate your circadian rhythm. Try getting a dose of sunlight first thing in the morning to get your daytime body clock going.
You don’t have to give up your morning coffee, but do try and avoid caffeine later in the day. Drinking anything caffeinated (or eating a lot of chocolate) after noon can disrupt your sleep.
Unlike caffeine, alcohol isn’t a stimulant that keeps you awake. It may make you sleepy, but the quality of your sleep may suffer and you may wake up early if you have a cocktail before bed.
You may not like it, but exercise is a very powerful part of your arsenal when it comes to getting good sleep. You also may like it a lot once you get started.
Exercise releases endorphins, reduces stress, and improves your mood. It also tires you out, making your body more receptive to sleep. An additional benefit? It increases deep sleep, the most restorative type during which your body repairs itself.
The one type of exercise to avoid is anything done in the evening. Try to exercise early in the day to keep the stimulus from keeping you awake.
A healthy diet is important for every aspect of your health. But for sleep, it’s more about when you eat. Don’t have a big meal right before bedtime and avoid fatty and spicy foods. Active digestion can make it harder to fall asleep.
Eating right before bedtime also interferes with the relaxing rituals of good sleep hygiene.
Relaxation techniques are a tool that can be used anytime. Try mindfulness meditation, muscle relaxation, or slow, easy stretching. Being able to relax and calm your mind and body during the day reduces overall stress and the associated hormones that can interfere with sleep.
Relaxation techniques in the evening can be part of your sleep hygiene routine. Quieting both mind and body sets the stage for a restful night.
These techniques, particularly meditation and muscle relaxation, are valuable tools if you can’t fall asleep or wake during the night. Reducing agitation and further stress can help you get back to sleep.
For more information on health and wellness, contact us at Align Chiropractic in Meridian, Idaho, caring for your chiropractic needs since 2009.