You might be exhausted, but that doesn’t mean sleep will come easily. Most of us have felt this way at least once or twice. For some of us, though, the nightly struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep can make going to bed feel like an exercise in futility.
If that sounds familiar, you’ve come to the right place. You may not realize it, but your sleep issues may have a lot to do with the routines and choices you’re making before bed. It may take a few weeks to break some bad habits, but if you take advantage of the ideas below, you’ll be well on your way to more quality hours of refreshing sleep!
Go to Sleep Around the Same Time Every Night
Your internal clock, also known as your circadian rhythm, runs on a 24-hour pattern. This clock is built on about 20,000 nerves that are ultra-intelligent. These nerves are activated to turn on various systems and hormones in correlation with the daylight and darkness. For example, when your eyes sense darkness, these nerves will tell your body to turn off the hunger hormone, begin to relax, and lower your body temperature.
Your body works best when all your hormones and systems are aligned with your body’s natural inclination to follow a day/night pattern. If you’ve been out of the habit of going to bed early enough for you to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, start setting a “bedtime” alarm.
If you have to be up at 6 a.m. each morning, you should be in bed by 10 p.m. at the latest. It may take some time to get used to—especially if you’ve been burning the midnight oil—but as your body realigns to it’s natural tendencies, you’ll find you’ll sleep much better.
Turn Off Electronics 1-2 Hours Before Bed
Your eyes contain light/darkness sensors that send signals to the brain. If your eyes sense light, even if it’s nighttime, they may trick your body into thinking its still time to be awake and alert. When your body’s systems think it’s time to be awake, it’s difficult to get them go into “sleep mode” when it’s time to go to bed.
The blue light in your electronic devices can activate those “daytime” sensors in your eyes. Doing work on a device also tells your brain and body it’s time to be awake.
If you can, put away those electronic devices before you lie down in bed. Don’t scroll through social media, check your email, or watch a movie. If you want to sleep better, choose nightly activities that don’t require a screen.
Make Your Room Dark and Cool
When it’s time to sleep, part of your body’s natural process is to lower your body temperature. You can help your body out by cooling your room. If the heat is on, lower it for the night. If it’s hot, use fans. Research says somewhere around 65 degrees F is the optimal temperature for sleeping.
To ensure those sensors in your eyes are telling your brain to sleep, turn off the lights. Invest in some blackout curtains or blinds. When your room is dark, you’ll be less likely to wake up in the middle of the night, and, if you do, it’ll be much easier for you to fall back asleep.
Create a Pre-Bedtime Routine
One of the best ways to prepare your body for sleep is to set up your bedtime routine. Parents know the importance of a nighttime ritual for their kids, but they don’t always make the same choices for themselves.
If possible, do the same things every night. They don’t have to be complicated, but choosing simple activities you can do about 30 minutes before you sleep will reinforce your body’s readiness for sleep.
You can read a chapter in a book, for example. Or, you can do a light stretching routine, listen to a podcast or music, draw or paint, or spend time connecting with your partner. Whatever the case, create a habit you can stick to.
Take a Sleep Supplement
Sometimes, you might just need a little help falling asleep. Although more than 20% of Americans say they use alcohol as a sleep-aid, it’s just not the best choice. Studies have shown that alcohol actually inhibits getting quality sleep. Instead of a glass of wine, choose something scientifically-proven to help.
When you’re shopping for a supplement, look for these ingredients:
Each of these ingredients has been shown to help your body relax, feel less anxious, and more ready to sleep. For best results, follow the directions on the bottle and use with consistency.