Though we often assume that a good night’s sleep starts when we turn off the lights, setting yourself up for a restful seven to eight hours goes far beyond closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. The routine we follow before we turn down the covers can have a greater impact on our hours of rest than anything that happens overnight, equipping us for a more restful, productive night’s sleep. Start with these five steps to capitalize on that crucial time, and improve your odds of waking up feeling truly rested each morning.
You know you have a full schedule tomorrow, and you’re already thinking about it. Rather than letting the next day’s obligations hang over your head as you binge-watch one of your go-to shows, clinical psychologist and specialist in sleep medicine, Michael Breus says to set aside a few minutes between dinner and bedtime to get organized ahead of your busy day. If bringing running clothes to work with you cuts down on your morning stress and rush, make time to do so. If having a pre-packed lunch keeps you eating healthy, nutritious food (rather than making a regretful stop at the office cafeteria), then pack a bag the night before. Instead of tossing and turning while imagining the amount of tasks awaiting you when the alarm goes off, you’ll be able to fall asleep knowing you’re organized and ready for the day to come.
With the amount of devices at our disposal, it’s not surprising that this is such a difficult task for most of us. However, we now know for a fact that harsh blue light emitted from phone, television, and tablet screens has been proven to alter the body’s natural production of melatonin before bed, confusing our internal clock and making winding down more difficult. The National Sleep Foundation recommends removing electronic devices that you use at close range from your bedroom to eliminate their impact on your sleep. If you must use a device before bed, switch it to a dimmer, night-specific screen setting, or make it something that you can set up further away from your eyes, like a television instead of a smartphone. If you really want to see a difference, follow the National Sleep Foundation’s suggestion to turn devices off an hour before bedtime to let your mind wind down at its own pace.
Take care of your body
Though we’d all love to get a massage each evening before bed, for most of us, that’s just not a reality. Instead, one of the easiest ways to take care of your body without adding an extra obligation to your schedule is to invest in a quality mattress. Doing your homework and picking out the right mattress once will ensure that poor support doesn’t impact your quality of rest and your physical well-being over time, making you less productive. Not sure where to start or wondering why your current mattress has never felt right? The average person will spend about 23,000 hours on their mattress over the course of its eight year lifespan, so do your research to ensure you make a smart, informed investment in a mattress and your overall health.
For most of us, reading an actual book has fallen to the wayside in favor of quick articles, social media scrolling, and television, but researchers have proven that reading is still far better at banishing stress than any more modern habits. In fact, in a 2009 study, cognitive neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis concluded that reading lowers stress levels by up to 68 percent, which is more than listening to music, taking a walk, or having a cup of tea or coffee. Try incorporating a few pages of a book into your evening routine, perhaps alongside a steaming mug of (decaf) tea, and relish the chance to engage your imagination and engross yourself in the world between the pages.
This revered wellness practice touts dozens of physical and mental benefits, but trying to empty your mind for 20 minutes right off the bat is enough to make most novice meditators give up. Easing into the practice, either with a few minutes of mindfulness meditation or the structure of a guided practice from an app or video, will help you slowly integrate it into your nightly routine in an accessible way. As an added plus, meditation also acts as a powerful complement to existing physical activities or fitness routines. According to Parinaz Samimi, a health and wellness consultant at mattressfirm.com, “[Meditation] helped me find myself . . . It reminds me not to be so quick to judge new experiences, new people, or even myself.”
Now that you’re armed with these tips, be diligent in keeping your pre-bedtime ritual a part of your everyday thinking. Continue to stay informed, and you’ll soon develop a wind-down routine that’s both practical and productive for your everyday life, and sets you up for the best night’s sleep possible.
Photo Credit: Eder Pozo Pérez