A few years ago if you asked me about my sleep I would almost certainly have told you something along the lines of “I can sleep when I’m dead”. I am so thankful that I was gradually educated on the importance of getting enough and GOOD sleep. I promise you that laying in bed for 8 hours is not the same thing as actually getting true sleep.
So what do you need to try first to get better sleep? The steps I list out below are a great starting place to get started.
If you believe that you may have a medical issue preventing you from getting good/enough/any sleep then I strongly urge you to seek professional medical advice!
Get into a regular routine
- Going to sleep at different times every day is one of the worst things you can do to get truly good sleep. Of course, sometimes you will need to vary your sleep schedule but striving to go to bed within the same hour and get up within the same hour are so important.
- Another part of the sleep routine is what you do before bed. There are things you can do to help you unwind but in order for them to help maximize your sleep time they have to be a part of a regular routine. For me it’s reading a chapter of a book before bed and for others it’s meditating. What works will be personal to you but creating that regular sleep and bedtime routine will help your body know when it needs to sleep and to start calming down.
- Have you ever laid in bed for hours thinking about something? Same! It happens to everyone and the best way to combat it is to get into a sleep routine so your body can fight your brains urge to stay awake and overthink.
Keep your overall health in mind
- The first part of this is to get exercise. I am not saying to run 20 miles every day (but if you can then YOU ROCK!). It is important for your overall health to get some levels of exercise 5+ times a week. This can be as simple as taking your dog on a 30 minute walk every night… just anything to help keep your heart and body healthy and moving.
- The second part is your diet. Similar to the point above, eating healthy contributes to a healthy body which makes you sleep better. Plus junk food (especially sugary food and soda) can mess with your energy levels throughout the day and throw your whole cycle out of whack. Remember this doesn’t have to be a cold-turkey situation, just being aware and trying to eat as healthy as possible will have a ton of benefits and better sleep is one of them!
- The third is your lifestyle. This definitely encompasses the first two parts of this but your lifestyle also includes things like how much TV you are watching and how often (and how hard) you are going out partying/drinking. The healthier your lifestyle is the better you will feel physically and mentally which contribute to getting good and consistent nights of sleep.
Unplug before sleeping
- Cellphones are amazing tools but they are also amazing at keeping you awake. The constant flow of information that cellphones provide is part of the reason that we love them but it is also part of what is keeping you awake at night. I, like many others, use my cell phone for alarms so I am not saying to turn your phone completely off. I am saying to put it down about an hour before bed to give your brain time to process the information and start to unwind.
- This one might be hard for a lot of people but part of unplugging is also turning off the TV. I know having noise going in the background is important for a lot of people so try classical music or a white noise app! But having a TV going can keep your brain too engaged (even if you don’t really realize it) and sudden noises from the TV can also wake you up throughout the night. It can be a tough habit to break but if you can then your sleep with thank you.
Your alarms matter
- Trust me I get the temptation to set 6 alarms for 5 minutes apart because hitting the snooze button feels so darn good. But those 35 minutes that you spent hitting snooze are basically 35 minutes of sleep that you lost. Even if you think you fell back asleep between alarms the sleep is so light that it won’t contribute to your overall sleep count for the night. It is so much better for you to set an alarm for when you actually need to wake up in the morning.
- That being said…. you also want to give yourself a little bit of extra time in the morning to get out of bed. Waking up and immediately feeling rushed can mean that you are waking up anxious which can impact your sleep. I set my alarm for 5 minutes before I actually need to get up so that I can wake up at my own pace.
Monitor your sleep trends
- This isn’t always feasible for everyone but if you can afford a smart watch that monitors your sleep then I highly recommend trying one. I have the FitBit Blaze and I love being able to see how much sleep and at what levels I got throughout the night. On more than one occasion I have gotten to the middle of the day and felt beyond exhausted so I’ll check my FitBit app only to discover that my actual “Sleep” time was way less than usual! This helps me to know that something was wrong with my sleep routine the day/night before and if it keeps happening consistently I know to change things until I can get back into a good sleep routine.
**I am far from a certified sleep specialist or doctor! These are the things I do to get more and better rest from my own experiences and a lot of the information I learned from medical professionals but this is my thoughts and opinions not medical advice. **
Sleep is vital to your health and happiness so take the time and effort to make sure you are getting the best sleep that you can!