Six Easy Steps to A Better Night’s Sleep
A good night’s sleep is the foundation for a great day. After a restful night, you have more energy, think more clearly, and are more relaxed. You also look healthier and feel better.
On the other hand, sleep-deprived people have dull skin, dark circles, red eyes, and look fatigued and unhealthy1. How you look affects how people perceive you: if you look chronically tired, your boss is likely to think you can’t handle that exciting new project, and will give it to someone else. Opportunity lost! Fatigue affects your health, too. Over long periods, being chronically short on sleep may even raise your risk of some heart conditions.2
The craziness of modern life can make it hard to get regular sleep. Fitting work, fitness and health routines, friends, family, and basic tasks like laundry into your day quickly becomes a challenge. Add staying connected online and it can seem impossible! Many of us end the day too keyed up to rest. We toss and turn, finally falling asleep a few scant hours before it’s time to get up and start again.
Starving yourself of sleep is as bad as starving yourself of food.
You can break that pattern with a little bit of willpower and a few simple tips. Here are 6 steps you can take to help make every night’s sleep a good one.
Leave enough time for sleep.
Most people need 7 – 8 hours of sleep nightly, give or take a bit. Contrary to popular opinion, you can’t make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping in on the weekends. Your brain and your body need time to reset and recover every day if you want to stay healthy. Starving yourself of sleep is as bad as starving yourself of food. Don’t do it.
Listen to Your Body Clock.
It doesn’t matter when you go to sleep and when you get up, as long as the times are right for your body. If you’re an early bird, up at 6 without the alarm, going to bed at 10 makes sense. Most productive late at night? Natural night owls might go to bed at midnight and sleep till 8. Figure out what works best for you and stick with that pattern.
Develop a calming pre-bedtime routine.
Train your brain to wind down at the end of the day by following a regular pattern before bedtime. Choose whatever calms you: a cup of chamomile tea, a bath or shower, reading, knitting, talking with your cat…avoid caffeine, big jolts of sugar, and high excitement TV that gets your blood racing.
Reduce screen time before bed.
The light from a computer, tablet or smartphone screen reduces your brain’s production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle3. Knocking out a few emails, posting once more on Facebook or Tweeting one last message just before bedtime can make it physiologically difficult for you to fall asleep. And that doesn’t consider the mental stimulation caused by any of these activities.
Make your bedroom a retreat.
Save your bedroom for sleeping and relaxation. Don’t work in bed, check email, text, or do other things that say ‘stay awake.’ Good sex is the exception. After an orgasm, your body releases prolactin, a hormone that makes you relaxed and sleepy. Otherwise reserve your bedroom for quiet relaxation and sleep.
Attend to your physical comfort.
What’s better than falling into a comfortable bed or mattress at the end of a long day and feeling yourself relax? Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable, set the temperature to a level you like, wear soft PJs. Keep your bedroom dark: turn off your phone, and use light-blocking shades or drapes. If you have a digital alarm clock, dim the display, and make sure that its light isn’t aimed at your eyes. If you are light-sensitive, change to an analog alarm clock or one that doesn’t light up.
A good night’s rest recharges your brain and your body
These 6 simple steps will help you sleep better and awake more refreshed. With a good night’s rest, your brain can recover from the previous day’s stresses and recharge itself for the day ahead. Your body can do the same. Sleep is a glorious pleasure. Give yourself the pleasure you deserve!
- Sundelin, T et al: Cues of Fatigue: Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Facial Appearance. SLEEP 2013;36(9):1355-1360
- Dettoni J et al: Cardiovascular effects of partial sleep deprivation in Healthy Volunteers J Appl Physiol 113:232-236, 2012.
- Cajochen C et al: Evening exposure to a light-emitting diodes (LED)-backlit computer screen affects circadian physiology and cognitive performance J Appl Physiol (1985).2011 May;110(5):1432-8.