You are attempting to fall asleep after a long day at work. You squeezed in dinner, exercising, playing with your kids, helping with homework, packing lunches, tweeting… the list never ends. And this is just since you pulled into the driveway at 6 p.m.
An active mind causes an inactive sleep pattern. And an inactive sleep pattern causes long nights of counting sheep. No wonder we are exhausted. According to the Sleep Foundation, “sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs.” So why have you established a consistent bedtime ritual for your kids to follow but never thought about your own health? If you are looking for a visit from the sandman, try these five bedtime tips.
- Create an oasis. For a place where you spend at least one-third of your day, it is important to be surrounded by a relaxing environment. If your room is your favorite shade of hot pink, think again. Calming blues and grays is step one to set the scene. By repainting the walls and scaling back the loud color pallette, your mind prepares for a restful night’s sleep. To create a spa-like setting for the bedroom, soft music can help lower your blood pressure and relax the body. White noise can be a distracting factor for some sleeping disorders where a fan or sound machine can help balance the noise. Where you put your head at night is equally important for relaxing. So let’s talk pillows. Down, memory foam, feather, microbead, buckwheat; a few choices are on the market. Each are designed for one purpose: sleep. But how do you choose? Sleep.org is one resource that asks some simple questions as you pick. Mattresses? Don’t get me started. Latex, memory foam, firm, soft, pillow-top, cooling, elevated. This is one of the most important decisions (besides picking the perfect bedding and decorative pillows) for a better sleep. Try out several brands before purchasing. Some even have a trial period!
- Write down your worries. According to the National Institutes of Health, 20 million report occasional sleeping problems. These abnormalities in sleep may originate from anxiety and stress. If you find yourself worrying while staring at the ceiling, try taking time before bed to write down what is on your mind. You can even start a sleep journal to track you patterns affecting a good night’s rest versus tossing and turning. Another method to cure anxiety while sleeping is time. If you are feeling like anxiety drags through the night as your mind wonders, remove the clock. Most alarms are on a FitBit or a phone across the room anyways. By removing the clock, you allow yourself to focus on the sleep you are going to get, not on the time you have missed worrying. If you find yourself still not falling asleep, go into another room of the house to start another routine of relaxation. Studies show 15 minutes of laying wide awake will only worsen with time. So plant a book in a peaceful spot with low lighting and remove any distractions like a remote control for Netflix or Hulu.
- Adjust the temperature. The ideal temperature for sleeping is in the 60s. When entering the rapid eye movement cycle, your body loses its ability to sweat causing the body to align with the room temperature. When too warm or hot, your body wakes you up and it is hard to fall back asleep. Equally hard is creating a colder temperature in a room when you do not have an air conditioning unit. Programmable thermostats can alleviate the costs of a cooler home or a cooler room while sleeping so it does not economically drain you. And let’s be honest. Sleeping naked is the last thing anyone wants to do in the winter just to get a few more winks. Some ideas to help stop the heat is proper curtains or blinds with direct sunlight. Blackout curtains not only create a serene sleeping environment but helps stop the blazing sun for locations in extreme heat or in direct sunlight all day. If all else fails, look at a cooling mattress, sheets or pillow to bring cooler temperatures to your room.
- Establish a routine. It takes three weeks to create a normal routine. By changing your bedtime routine, it helps set the mood. Showering, journaling, reading. Anything that helps establish routine every night prior to the rem cycle. Baths by candlelight with lavender oils may set a interesting precedence but after the three week cycle, it can be a part of a routine; a routine you can be excited about every night. Avoiding coffee, chocolate, and caffeine that stimulates the brain is a routine in itself. It may take time to break the habit but is an important step to take in establishing a new routine. There are a million different combinations that can go into your routine. You have to try different combinations and find out what works best for you.
- Put down the phone. Think about the last time you were disconnected from your mobile device. You probably have to think way back. Exposure to “blue light” from screens before bed leads to drowsiness even with a full eight hours in bed. Studies show emittance of the blue light “prevents our brains from releasing melatonin, a hormone that tells our bodies it's nighttime.”Giving up the phone for an hour before bedtime will help distract your brain from the light. Unplugging includes charging. I am not suggesting you keep your phone at 5 percent life but don’t charge the phone next to your bed; otherwise you will be tempted to get on your phone in bed. In fact, “71 percent of people sleep either holding their smartphone, having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand.”
Without the tossing and turning accompanied by a healthy routine, you will be on your way to a healthier lifestyle.