Good sleep plays an important role in our physical health, emotional health and mental wellness. When we’re asleep, the body heals and repairs the heart and blood vessels, prevents excess weight gain, gives us a wider window of tolerance, removes toxins in the brain that build up while awake, protects our immune system, and much more.
But good sleep doesn’t just mean lots of sleep - it means the right kind of sleep. Research has shown that consistently getting seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night is beneficial for adults, although some people may need as few as 6 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each night depending on age, what feels right for their mind/body, health status etc
Despite knowing sleep is so important for our overall wellbeing, many of us still struggle with getting quality sleep. Work, caffeine, food, alcohol, noise pollution, anxiety, stress, and one of the biggest culprits - blue light - all affect the quality of sleep a person gets.
If you’re looking to improve your quality of sleep, continue reading for some helpful tips!
1. Put down the TV remote, smart phone, and tablet at least 1 hour before bed. These devices emit light that can interfere with your natural sleep cycle. Not only that, but using technology shortly before bed increases the time it takes for you to fall asleep and your ability to stay asleep. Pro Tip: Set your phone/tablet to switch to Nighttime Mode about 2 hours before you usually go to bed.
2. Create a sleep schedule for yourself. Plan to go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday and be consistent. You can give yourself an extra hour or two (at most) to sleep in on weekends. By doing so, it maintains the timing of the body's internal clock and can help you fall asleep and wake up more easily. Ideally, you’ll want to wind down at least 1 hour before bed.
3. If you find that your mind is overactive around bedtime, try:
Grounding: A grounding technique such as visualizing roots growing from your feet into the Earth.
Breath Work: The 4-7-8 breathing technique is rhythmic breathing technique which can help reduce anxiety, induce sleep, and even reduce anger. To try - empty the lungs of air, breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds, exhale to sigh it out through the mouth for 8 second - repeat the cycle as many times as needed.
Pre-Bed Brain Dump: This is your chance to expressively write out all of your events that happened in a day, write down all the things you wish you would’ve said or done, get out all of your worries for tomorrow, and really just move all your thoughts and worries from your head to paper.
Give yourself unconditional permission to rest. Capitalism thrives off of our productivity, society tells us that we're not doing enough and promotes the "grind culture". When you're lying in bed, gently remind yourself aloud "I give my mind, body and spirit permission to rest now" or "I am worthy of deep rest."
4. Diffuse lavender or jasmine essential oil (or put some on your pillow). Note: if you have any allergies, pre-existing/underlying medical conditions, or know of any other reason why essential oils might be harmful to you - please consult with your doctor.
5. Stop eating 2–3 hours before bed (especially sugar). This allows your digestive system ample time to break down your meal before your head hits the pillow.
6. Create the right environment for sleep. Declutter, keep your room dark, reduce noise, find the right temperature to help you sleep (a cooler room is quite common), ban reminders of work, etc.
7. Skip the snooze. While it’s tempting to hit the snooze button in the morning, doing so can actually have negative impacts. Hitting snooze ruins the quality of your REM sleep (the most restorative sleep stage). Snoozing your alarm and shutting your eyes again sends you right back into a new phase of REM, which your brain stays in long after you’ve forced yourself to get up. The result: You’re foggy all day. It also affects your circadian rhythms (the body’s internal clock).
8. Be careful with naps. Afternoon naps can provide a burst of energy during the day, however if they’re too long or too late - they can have adverse affects on your quality of sleep at night. Afternoon naps should be no more than 20-30 minutes and no later than 5 pm.
9. Wide awake? Get up. If you’re finding it difficult to get to sleep, avoid laying in your bed creating frustration or worry. Try getting up for a few minutes, grab a drink (no sugar or caffeine), and head back to bed when you’re feeling a bit sleepier.
10. Physical health problems can stop you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Speaking to your doctor about appropriate medication can help with this and provide a solution to sleep problems. (Avoid taking medication without speaking to a medical professional). Mental Illness can also affect our sleep. Speak to your doctor or mental health care provider (if you have one) for appropriate guidance.