Solid sleep habits are the foundation of overall health. For stressed individuals and busy executives, sleep patterns can vary wildly–wreaking havoc on your system and taking a toll on both body and mind. Accounts vary about exactly how much sleep adults require and it’s safe to say that we should each respect our own unique biorhythm. But sometimes getting to sleep–or staying asleep–can be more stressful than your fully waking hours. Here are some useful tips to keep in mind if you want to adjust your sleep patterns or get a deeper, more restorative sleep each night.
Watch what you eat.
Caffeine and sugar are the obvious culprits when it comes to burning the midnight oil. In fact, sometimes consumption of caffeine during your lunch break can disrupt your body hours later. But there are hidden sleep-inhibitors in many other types of food that aren’t as obvious, like salty or starchy foods. These foods cause your body’s cortisol level to rise, which inhibits drifting off. Also, avoid foods that might cause heartburn or indigestion because these lingering aches will co-opt your attention and inhibit blissful relaxation.
Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
Get up at the same time every morning, weekend or not. This allows your body to become accustomed to a regular sleeping pattern, which is easier to maintain than a sporadic schedule. If you absolutely must sleep in on a weekend, opt for no more than an hour difference from your waking time, so your schedule stays similar.
Moving your body will wear you out throughout the day and this will translate into better sleep at night. Those of us with fairly sedentary lifestyles should take special care to release pent up energy in the form of daily exercise in order to tap out energy resources and allow the body to energetically refuel overnight.
Meditate before bed.
Getting into the relaxation mindset is half the battle before a good night’s sleep so turn down the lights, sit in a quiet space, and become mindful of your breathing. This simple step can do wonders to get you into the deep-sleep mindset. Burn a soothing candle, warm yourself with a blanket, and create a quiet safe space to clear your mind and set yourself up for a tranquil night.
Use noise to cancel out noise.
Sometimes the ticking of a clock, passing traffic, or the creaks of a settling house can be unsettling when you’re trying to fall asleep. Use “white noise” techniques to drown out irregular noises that can keep you awake. A fan, white noise machine, fish tank pump, or small table-top water fountain can generate soothing sounds. It might take a little getting used to for the first few nights, but over time you might find that you can’t fall asleep without it!
Use a traditional alarm clock instead of a smart phone.
Many of us keep our smartphone by the bed but these little computers can become big distractions. Checking emails, reading texts, browsing the Internet, and reviewing photos all occupy mental space that you’re trying to free up at night. Instead, charge your phone in a different location so you’re not tempted to check it often.
Give yourself permission to disengage.
Many of us have a hard time falling asleep because our minds don’t want to relinquish the never-ending list of responsibilities and “things to do.” Honor and respect the thoughts that run through your mind by making list before bed of your nagging worries. The items on your list can be specific (related to tomorrow) or general overall stressors. By storing them on a physical list, you are giving your mind permission to put them aside for the night.
Getting a good night’s sleep doesn’t have to be difficult. But making changes to your lifestyle–and sticking to them–can create long-term changes that will last over time.