Drug-free strategies to help you sleep healthier
Sometimes getting a good night’s sleep can feel like a race – racing to get everything done that needs to get done so we can get to bed at a decent hour. But there’s always one more load of laundry or an email marked urgent or – fill in your own blank here – that’s a must-do before light’s out. And when we sacrifice our sleep for those must-do’s we suffer. Our pain can range from a body that hasn’t been recharged fully to a mind that’s unable to focus, which leads to accidents and, in extreme cases, risk of disease and death.
The path to a good night’s sleep is anything but a race. It’s actually more of a slowing down, a conscious decision to step off the hamster wheel and let the world carry on without us for a few hours. The trouble is, getting to that path is different for everyone.
Best bedtime habits to start tonight
1. Keep electronics out of your bedroom for better sleep quality. This is at the top of the list for good reason – it was a universal rule among our experts. They all agreed that the blue light from tablets, laptops and smartphones interferes with falling asleep because it suppresses melatonin, an essential hormone for sleep.
“On a less scientific note, keeping smartphones and tablets out of your bedroom helps you to fall asleep earlier,” says Leslie Fischer, the Chicago-based founder of SustainableSlumber.com, “because you are not endlessly scrolling or watching ‘just one more episode’ of a great series on Netflix. Devices can be very stimulating and stimulation is the last thing you need when trying to fall asleep at night.”
Chris Brantner, a certified sleep coach at SleepZoo.com suggests turning off your devices at least one hour before bed. Two hours before is better. Put your phone away because the blue light emitted messes with the body’s melatonin production.
While blue light can be managed with awesome applications like f.lux, the EMFs (magnetism coming from the phone) still affect you unless your phone is either on airplane mode or completely off.
2. Use blackout blinds in your bedroom to keep unnatural light out. According to Fischer, many people report that sleeping in a totally dark room improves sleep quality and makes it easier to fall asleep at night.
3. Set an alarm for bedtime. Most people set an alarm to help them get up in the morning but consider doing this in the evening too. A bedtime alarm serves as a reminder to make going to bed earlier a priority.
4. Avoid these 3 taboos. Mat Giladi, a certified personal trainer and entrepreneur from New Jersey, says these are 3 bad habits that need to broken: drinking coffee after 2 pm, eating within 3 hours of bedtime and exercising within 3 hours of bedtime. They stimulate the body instead of relaxing it and will cause sleep disturbances.
5. Embrace the 1-hour wind down. Giladi asks, “Can you go from waking up groggy straight to high-level math? Absolutely not. So let’s apply that same logic to falling asleep.” Take an hour to prep for bed. In the first 20 minutes, he suggests closing out the day by getting ready for tomorrow. One way to do that is journaling to help silence anxious thoughts from the day that may be swirling around in your head.
- Every night, simply fill an entire page with your thoughts. Don’t worry about what to write. Don’t overthink it. Use a stream of thought to download what’s in your brain, allowing you to fall asleep with a calm mind.
- The second 20 minutes is for sleep hygiene. Warm showers are especially good because they calm you and prepare your body for sleep. For the final 20 minutes, just relax. Read a book of fiction or not too taxing non-fiction – an old fashioned paper one, not on an e-reader. Meditate. Listen to soothing music.