How can I get better sleep?
In my previous post I talked about how good sleep is the foundation for good health, and how small changes to your sleep habits can have a huge impact on pretty much everything related to your overall well-being.
Today I wanted to go a little deeper into how you might go about actually implementing some of the strategies that allow for better sleep. I mean, I think we all agree that sleep is super important, so if you’re struggling to get good sleep on a regular basis (which means 7-9 uninterrupted hours per night), where and how do you start to make improvements?
The most impactful thing you can do to help yourself get consistent, high-quality sleep is to have a regular sleep and wake schedule. Our bodies operate on a 24-hour circadian rhythm, and the more you can match up your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle with what time you actually go to bed and get up in the morning, the more likely you are to get the amount of restful, deep sleep you need for optimal health and wellness.
Are you a “morning lark” or a “night owl”? Following your own natural tendencies will be easiest, although not always possible considering as a society we tend to operate on an early morning start for the workday/school day. But if you figure out what time you want to (or have to) get up in the morning and work backwards to account for 7-9 hours of sleep you can determine what time you want to be in bed and falling asleep.
The next step to creating a consistent sleep/wake schedule is to have some kind of sleep routine or ritual. Just as you wouldn’t expect yourself to jump out of bed in the morning and immediately start doing a sprint workout, you can’t expect your body to go from stimulating daytime activities to restful, sleepy bedtime at the drop of a hat. Factoring in some wind down time in the evening is key to helping your body ease into sleep.
Ideally this means doing calming activities, staying away from bright lights and screens, and cooling down your body temperature 1-2 hours before bed (you can do this by keeping your bedroom cold at night, taking a cool shower, or even taking a warm bath before going into a cold bedroom – the drop in temperature can help make you sleepy!).
Other things like avoiding big meals right before bed, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, and getting sunlight in the morning and exercise in your day can also help keep your circadian rhythm on track, allowing you to naturally start to feel tired around your bedtime.
And if you’re sleep schedule is pretty on track but you tend to wake up in the middle of the night, all these things still apply and can help you get more uninterrupted sleep. You can also try breathing exercises (like this one) or doing a brain dump before bed or when you wake up in the middle of the night to get things off your mind so you can fall asleep.
And perhaps this is obvious by now, but please, please keep your phone out of the bedroom at night. If you must use it for an alarm, at least keep it far enough away that you aren’t looking at it right before bed or in the middle of the night. Consider getting a regular old alarm clock? Your body will thank you :)
In summary: sleep is critical to your health, and you can improve your sleep quality and quantity by having a consistent sleep routine. Figure out what bedtime and wake time works for you to get 7-9 hours of sleep and create a ritual that helps you wind down and prepare for bed. If your sleep routine is not currently where you want it to be, take it slow and gradually move closer to your ideal bedtime, or add in one small healthy sleep practice at a time until it is part of your routine.
If you’re interested in more information about why sleep is so essential (and why you may think you can get by on less than 7 hours but research does not back that up), the different stages of sleep and why they’re important, and a look into how and why we dream, I highly recommend the book “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams” by Matthew Walker:
And if you want any other resources on creating a sleep routine or how to set yourself up for sleep success, let me know!
Sweet dreams :)