Better Sleep in 2020
While the most popular New Year's resolutions tend to be about exercising more often or eating more healthfully, many people also vow to become better sleepers. If you want to make 2020 the year that you finally prioritize your zzz's, try these five easy tips.
- Cut out your afternoon coffee and your nightcap. Caffeine and alcohol can make it tough to get quality sleep. Consider having caffeine only in the morning and early afternoon—you definitely don’t want any in the six hours leading up to bedtime. And while alcohol may help you nod off initially, it does cause you to wake up throughout the night. A good rule of thumb: Don't drink booze in the three hours before you turn in.
- Move dinnertime earlier. It takes your body three to four hours to digest food, so try not to eat too close to bedtime. And when choosing what to eat, go with lighter foods. Large, rich meals that are eaten too late in the day can cause indigestion and heartburn, making it hard to fall asleep.
- Improve your bedroom. You want your room to be cool (60 to 67 degrees or so), dark (no nightlights), and quiet (white noise machines or ear plugs can help).
- Create a relaxing pre-bed routine. Try not to go straight from watching a dramatic TV show or struggling with a work project to attempting to fall asleep—it’s just too hard to switch off your brain. Take 30 minutes to wind down and transition to bedtime. Lower the lights in your home, sip on some tea, or read a magazine—whatever relaxes you is perfect.
- Have other healthy habits. Improving your overall physical and mental health can also help you sleep better. Two key steps: Work out regularly—even 30 minutes, three or four times a week can be beneficial—and manage your stress by doing deep breathing exercises or meditating for at least a few minutes a day.
You are the Master of Your Sleep
Along with a sleep-friendly bedroom environment, creating the right mindset is key to getting quality sleep at night. After all, it’s hard to relax when you’re still thinking about work deadlines or disagreements with family members in the minutes before bed. Mindfulness and meditation are two ways to help you create the right mindset for sleep.
Mindfulness is another way to say that you are aware of your surroundings and intentionally focusing your thoughts—in this case, on feelings of calmness. That means putting away your smart phone, signing off of social media, and shutting off the TV, so you can turn your attention to being present in the moment.
To practice mindfulness, start by lying in bed and simply observing the thoughts that come to your mind. With every thought, picture a cloud floating by in the sky. Rather than stopping to dwell on these clouds, watch as they pass by and disappear, allowing more thought clouds to follow.
The goal is to keep your focus on the here and now. Feel the softness of your sheets, hear the sounds of gentle music or white noise, and listen to yourself breathing in and out.
Mindfulness is related to meditation, the practice of channeling your thoughts and energy into a particular idea, object, or action. You might focus on your breath, or a certain word or mantra, or a bodily sensation over a period of time. Meditation has been found to be widely helpful in those with insomnia and may provide a natural way to fall asleep faster.
To try meditation, sit on or near your bed, legs crossed (if you can do so comfortably), eyes closed. As you feel yourself breathing in and out deeply, pick a word that signifies sleep, such as “relax” or “calm.”
Focus on this word as you sit, bringing yourself back to the word every time your mind begins to wander. Start by practicing this for 5 minutes a day. As you get comfortable with the practice, aim for 10 and then 15 minutes at a time to set the intention for a good night’s sleep.
Acknowledging the importance of sleep for health and learning different ways to improve sleep make good New Year’s Resolutions. Call Alaska Sleep Clinic and speak with one of our board-certified sleep specialists.
I wish you all a Happy New Year! Sleep well!