We all know that getting the right amount of sleep is important. It helps us to think more clearly, allows our bodies to do the important work of repairing muscle and tissue, and prevents us from a variety of serious health conditions. Unfortunately, far too many of us put ourselves into impossible situations when it comes to getting the rest that we need. In some cases the problem is inescapable – think having to get up in the middle of the night to feed or calm a crying infant. In other cases the problem is created by a clear choice that we’ve made, prioritizing work or our social schedules over the deep, uninterrupted sleep that we need. In still other situations though, our inability to get to sleep may be due to unconscious decisions that we’ve made during the day. These can range from what we’ve had to eat or drink to the way we’ve decorated our homes. To help overcome some of these fixable problems, here are tips for how to get better sleep.
- Take a good look at your bedroom. Monitor your environment to see how it feels. Is it cool, dark, quiet? Though everybody has their own preferences, there’s a lot to be learned by thinking back to our predecessors who slept in caves. Caves generally provide lower temperatures and are eerily quiet, and unless you’ve set up a fire, they’re very dark at night as well. Try to replicate that, but with the addition of a comfortable bed, sheets and pillow. Make sure you have room-darkening drapes too.
- Be aware of what contains caffeine and cut it out after 2:00 in the afternoon. We all know about coffee and how it can keep us awake, but remember that caffeine is also present in decaf coffee, chocolate, teas, energy drinks, pain relievers, and even gum and candy. Non-cola drinks, ice cream, and weight loss pills are also culprits, so be aware of where the dangers lie.
- Exercise is a double-edged sword. Regular exercise can help promote sleep, but don’t schedule your workout for the evening. Two hours before bedtime is when all strenuous activity needs to stop.
- Even though you want your bedroom to be cool, sometimes heating up your body with a hot bath or shower can help you relax and will send a signal to your brain that it’s time to get drowsy.
- Avoid stress and anxiety right before bedtime. This means that when you’re brushing your teeth at night is not the right time to bring up your annoyance with your partner’s parents or the big price tag that is going to accompany your child’s tuition. Save emotional topics for when you want to be alert, otherwise you’re going to be lying there listening to your heart pounding instead of sleeping.
- Block or eliminate blue lights from your bedroom. There is a significant amount of research showing that the blue light from tablets and smart phones is sending the wrong signal to our brains. Best option is taking the devices out of your bedroom entirely, but if you just can’t tear yourself away, invest in a sleep shield that controls your blue light exposure.