We live in a culture that praises work over play and romanticizes all-nighters and caffeine dependency. Yet, a good night’s sleep is vital to our well-being. If your new year’s resolutions include improving your relationship with sleep, here are some tips.
Routines are incredibly important, especially when it comes to signaling to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep. If your pre-bedtime habits have no discernible pattern, you need to establish a routine stat. It can be as simple as changing into your pajamas, brushing your teeth, and crawling into bed (assuming you don’t do that during any other time of the day). Whatever you choose to do, it needs to help wind down your brain and body for the night.
Powering Down Your Thoughts
One of my biggest struggles with falling asleep is getting my brain to power down for the night. I sometimes spend hours lying in the dark and quiet of my room just spinning through a jumble of thoughts. If a simple bedtime routine isn’t enough to get you ready for bed, you can try adding these elements.
Don’t eat or drink any caffeine or sugar late at night. If acid reflux or similar symptoms bother you, considering cutting off all eating by 8 p.m.
Drink some chamomile or Sleepy Time tea 30 – 60 minutes before you go to bed.
Engage your other senses while falling asleep so you aren’t just left with your thoughts. Anything from white noise to a relaxing scent to cough drops–or a combination–can be enough to distract your mind while you drift off to sleep.
Spend 3 – 10 minutes using a guided meditation app. There are tons that cater specifically to falling asleep and other issues that may be preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. Even if you suck at meditating, the soothing voice can do a great job of settling you down.
For breathing and snoring problems during sleep, consult your health-care provider about using an oral appliance called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This device provides a steady flow of pressurized air that alleviates breathing and snoring problems, helping you sleep better at night.
Avoid using technology and its blue light. If you can’t cut out screen time well before bed, make sure you’ve installed and enabled apps like f.lux that adapt the color of your screen to the time of day. Many other apps are also able to change their color and brightness settings based on time of day or how bright the surrounding area is.
Reading a book before bed is a great way to settle down for sleep. Just make sure to read during other times of the day or you’ll be falling asleep while reading a textbook at 2 p.m.!
Reclaim Your Bedroom
In the world of cramped dorm rooms and tiny apartments, most rooms and furniture become multi-purpose, especially your bed. However, when the space meant for sleep is associated with other activities, your brain can get confused. So whether you only have a portion of your bed or a whole bedroom to mark as your sleep zone, keep it sacred. I especially recommend not doing your homework or other wide-awake activities in this sacred spot of sleep.
Design and decor can go a long way in making sleep easier. No one sleeps well in a hotel room, so make sure your bedroom doesn’t offer the same vibe. I also highly support choosing what makes you happy and comfortable over what looks HGTV worthy. An inviting room and bed will only make you more eager to go to sleep. So get the giant fuzzy pillow or Harry Potter blanket or bright patterned sheets!
In a similar vein, if sleep and the process of getting to sleep are starting to feel like a chore, make it fun again. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you can’t use the same tactics your parents used while you were a kid. Treat yourself to some fun new pajamas. Buy one of those giant teddy bears from Costco so you have something to cuddle with. Do whatever you need to do to make sleep feel like your new favorite activity if it’s something you’ve come to dread.
Small Improvements That Go a Long Way
Sometimes a good night’s sleep is only a couple of small changes away. Often we don’t realize how much temperature or mattress firmness can affect sleep. Of course, you likely don’t have tons of money to spend on upgrading your sleep sanctum, so here are some easy and cheap adjustments.
Buy a foam mattress pad. Walmart sells them for like $30. They will revitalize your old mattress.
Buy new pillows. Maybe the current firmness, size, or shape just doesn’t jive with you. A new pillow or two that suits your preferences won’t break your bank. You might also consider getting a body pillow. I’ve also found that Reading/ Bed Rest pillows are great for comfortably propping you up when you’re congested and trying to sleep.
Download some sleep tools. There are tons of free and cheap apps that can greatly improve your sleep experience. Buddhify, White Noise, and Sleep Cycle are my three favorites.
If you prefer a colder room or need some white noise, ceiling fans and box fans are a great option. If you want the noise of the fan without the colder air, just turn it away from you. If you prefer complete silence, get yourself special soundproof ear muffs.
Buy some heavier bedding. I’ve realized that I sleep best when I feel like I’m being buried alive by quilts and pillows. While you may not be that extreme, swapping your comforter for a quilt might add just enough weight to help you sleep better. If anxiety and other mental illnesses affect your sleep, I definitely consider forking out for a weighted blanket as mine has made a significant difference in my sleep experience.
Achieving great sleep isn’t something you can do in one day (or night). It’s a process to figure out what environment and habits work for you.
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