Do you have trouble falling asleep at night? If so, you’re not alone. According to Consumer Reports, 164 million people in the U.S. report they have trouble falling asleep at least once a week. Unfortunately, a consistent lack of sleep comes with its own problems. You may have higher blood pressure, slower mental processes, and increased rates of depression. To avoid these and other sleep-related problems, it’s time to take your sleep seriously. Here’s how you can have restful sleep night after night.
Clear Your Mind
If you suffer from racing thoughts before bed, try to get some clarity. Experts recommend keeping a journal where you write down everything in your head. Jot down to-dos, random thoughts, and any worries. The items will be still there in the morning so why worry about them any longer? Close the journal and prepare for bed.
Establish a Routine
The first step towards a good night’s sleep is to establish a bedtime routine. First, pick a general time to go to sleep and a time to wake up. Set your alarms accordingly, and follow this timeline. Your body will adjust and appreciate the regular sleep schedule. You should aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. If you like, track your sleep on a Fitbit or other health tracking device to see how your sleep improves or declines over time. You can make a note of what you were doing on a certain day sleep declined and make adjustments as needed. Make sure that you aren’t eating or drinking stimulants — caffeine and nicotine — before bed. It’s best to swear off these substances 4 to 6 hours before your bedtime.
Get in a Bit of Exercise
Sleep experts used to discourage exercise before sleep, but new studies show exercising can be helpful, provided you do the right exercises. If you don’t have a sleep disorder, feel free to exercise in gentle ways before bed. Pilates, yoga, and stretching are all good moves for your body and help relax your muscles. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following yoga poses for before bedtime: Cat-Cow, Seated Forward Bend, Seated Twist, and Legs Up the Wall. Make sure you move in a way that’s smooth and doesn’t injure yourself.
Create a Bedtime Ritual
Sleep loss affects everyone, but it’s more significant in women. Research shows that when women lose sleep, they have an increased risk of depression, heart disease, and other conditions. Create a soothing ritual for going to bed so you associate it with tranquility, relaxation, and peace. Take a lukewarm shower or bath 60 minutes to 90 minutes before bed. The cooler water will signal to your body’s circadian rhythm that it’s time to rest. Water that’s too warm will have the opposite effect and convince your body that it needs to wake up. The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock. It runs 24 hours a day, working with your brain and body for alert/sleep cycles. Satin robes are a great choice for after the shower as they feel luxurious on your skin and give you a spa-like feeling. Unlike plush robes, satin robes are lighter and won’t let you feel weighed down, perfect for just sliding into bed. Follow this ritual each night and give yourself a bit of pampering before bed.
Set the Atmosphere for Sleep
Quick question: Should the TV be on when you sleep? If you answered yes, then you’ve got a problem. Falling asleep while viewing a TV can dramatically affect your sleep thanks to electronics’ blue light. The blue light sends a signal to the brain and delays the release of melatonin, which helps promote sleep in your body. As we said before, you should give yourself a spa-like feeling when you go to bed. Wearing satin robes is a great touch, but add other comfortable touches in your bedroom. Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and soft pillows. Block out any light with curtains or an eye mask. You can even play a meditation or soft relaxation music to help you drift off to sleep.
If you still have trouble sleeping after following all of these tips, don’t get discouraged. Avoid looking at the clock and thinking about how much sleep you’re losing. Instead, just close your eyes and try to relax with some deep breathing. With patience and dedication to your new routine, you should be able to have great sleep night after night.