Tossing and turning in bed all night is never fun. Although we live in a society where trading sleep time for getting more things done in a day is often the norm, the truth is that our brain and body require about seven to nine hours of sleep each night to stay healthy. Sleep deprivation has negative effects on aging, immune system function, metabolism, reaction time, memory, blood pressure and our ability to focus.
The cure for sleep difficulties can often be found in daily routine. Our sleep schedule, bedtime habits and day-to-day lifestyle choices can make an enormous difference to the quality of our nightly rest.
1. Eat Right
Avoid large meals or your late-night glass of wine that you claim helps you ‘unwind’ at the end of a long day. “Alcohol affects your brain’s chemistry and it’s common for people to actually wake up as the alcohol is metabolized through the body,” says sleep specialist Sheryl Brooks, who is a Board Certified Registered Nurse and Health Coach at Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa.
2. Create A Sleep-Time Ritual
After you’re done with your bedtime routine–brushing your teeth, letting the dog out, locking the door–shut out all external stimuli, including your phone, and sit with yourself and your thoughts for no more than 5-10 minutes. Brooks says, “Choose a dimly lit space, get comfortable, think about the events of the day and put them to rest, then do something relaxing until you’re sleepy.”
3. Turn Off Tech
At least an hour before going to bed, cut yourself off from all gadgets that have screens—this includes your television, computer, tablet, etc. Elaborating on this, Melissa Heisler, Stress Reduction Expert and Coach, and author of From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It, says, “The bright light (from screens) keeps us awake and alert. By turning off electronics an hour before we want to sleep, we are telling our bodies to get ready for bed.” Remember to also turn off your phones completely when going to bed—receiving notifications throughout the night can keep you from sleeping.
4. Put Your Worries To Bed
If you have a lot going on, your mind can be a swirl of to-dos and anxiety. Heisler says, “Write down your concerns before going to bed. Know that they are all noted and that you can work through them in the morning. If you happen to wake up in the night, write down your to-do, worry, or dream.” By releasing the thought on paper, you are ready for sleep again.
5. Exercise Regularly
Studies suggest that aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety and improve quality of sleep, especially in people who suffer from insomnia. But while exercise can help improve sleep quality, it is important to schedule workouts so they end at least two hours before you decide to head to bed, so that post-workout adrenaline boost doesn’t keep you up.