Most people do not get a good night’s sleep. They stay up too late, toss and turn trying to get to sleep, and then wake up early to take on the next day, which they are not adequately rested to face. Between using tablets and smartphones before bed, watching TV, running through their to-do list for the next day, and trying to figure out how to juggle everything they need to manage the next day, it’s no wonder people sleep less now than ever. However, there is hope. Here are some sound tips on how to get a good night’s sleep.
Turn Off All Tablets and Devices at Least 30 Minutes Before Bed
Most of us have gotten into the habit of checking email, looking for the score to the football game that we didn’t have time to watch, or binge-watching our favorite show until the wee hours of the morning. With such on-demand access to the internet, via our smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs, we are always connected.
The truth is, watching any device within 30 minutes before sleep, tells our brain that it is still light out and not the time for bed. This inhibits the body’s ability to make the proper amount of melatonin that helps us to easily fall asleep.
If we turn off our devices early and read or meditate in a dimly lit room, the body will naturally relax and produce the melatonin needed to send us into a peaceful sleep.
Increase Bright Light Exposure During the Day
At night we want our body to know that it is time to rest. On the contrary, during the day we want our body to know that it is time to be awake. By increasing the amount of natural and artificial light that we are around during the day, it will help our system to know when the lights are dimmer and duller, that it is time to rest. This is called utilizing our body’s circadian rhythm.
One study found that in older adults two hours of bright light exposure during the day increased the amount of sleep by two hours and sleep efficiency by 80%.
Avoid Drinking Caffeine within 8 Hours of Bedtime
While it may seem like you need a cup of coffee in the late afternoon to get you through the rest of your day, caffeine stays in your system for up to eight hours after drinking it. This means that even if you feel that initial burst of energy, and then you start to slide backward, the caffeine is still working in your body.
If you drink coffee more for the taste, it is suggested that you drink decaffeinated coffee or tea rather than the highly caffeinated variety.
Don’t Try to Catch Up on Sleep on Your Day Off
While it may seem like a good idea to sleep in on your day off of work, studies show that sleeping in actually makes it harder to fall asleep at night and affects your ability to wake up easily the following day.
When you sleep later, it cues your body that it’s okay to stay up later; your body has established a set amount of time that being awake is normal. When you attempt to change this timing, you will most likely find that you have a harder time falling asleep when you woke up late in the morning.
Stick to a set schedule as best you can. Sure, there will be events and times that going to bed at the same time and rising is impossible; however, dispel any notion that you can catch up on sleep. It’s impossible and counterproductive.
Don’t Drink Alcohol in the Evening
While a glass of wine or a few cocktails might help you to relax and fall asleep, once the alcohol in your body wears off, you are more likely to wake up unexpectedly. This will undoubtedly affect your ability to fall back to sleep and do so in a way that you will wake up rested.
It is best to avoid alcohol before bed or limit yourself to just one or two glasses a week.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
Bedtime routines are not just beneficial for children; they work for people of all ages. By establishing a bedtime routine, you are essentially giving your body permission to go to sleep.
Some relaxation techniques that you may find beneficial include:
- Listening to relaxing music
- Reading a book
- Taking a hot bath (however if you do this, make sure you do it every night)
There are two reasons that taking a bath every night should be a part of your routine. One, if you don’t take one on any given night, you may find that you have skipped a step in your routine and you are restless, and two, that if you take a bath in the middle of the day you will find yourself tired before bedtime arrives. Stick to taking a shower or bath at the same time daily.
More on this topic: How White Noise Machines Work and Why are They Effective for Sleeping