Updated: Sep 6, 2020
I am thrilled to see a shift in society in which it is considered less virtuous or glamorous to sacrifice sleep for the sake of doing more. The health risks and decreased effectiveness of those who don't sleep have been reported in scientific journals and popular media. Even some of the most successful people we know and admire, like Arianna Huffington, have espoused the need for a good night’s rest.
Finally we are at a place where no one can dispute that high quality sleep matters. However I still hear often that getting proper rest alludes many of us. How many times has someone asked you how you're doing, and you responded with the rote "Good", followed with "I'm tired"? From clients, to family and friends of mine, to my own past experience, it seems like too many of us are walking through our everyday lives tired and not having as much energy as we would like. In fact, a Center for Disease Control study in 2016 found that more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep (7 – 9 hours) on a regular basis. Lack of sleep impairs our physical and mental abilities, worsens our emotional reactions to life events, and simply takes away the energy we could have to get more out of life.
Turns out, simple adjustments throughout the day leading up to bed time can improve your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. Keep reading for five tips that will help you finally catch some Z's.
Get in a rhythm: The body’s circadian rhythm governs when different hormones are released throughout the day, including the release of cortisol in the morning to get us moving and alert, and melatonin at night to bring us into a restful state. Two ways you can support this natural rhythm are through (1) consistent wake up and bed times and (2) getting 20 minutes of sunlight each day. Consistency allows your body to optimally modulate active and resting states when your body needs either the most. And your body's detection of natural light helps it time the release of various hormones throughout the day to regulate the transition from activity to rest.
Set the mood: Create an aesthetic environment and atmosphere in your bedroom that encourages sleep. Design your space with serene, restful colors and remove the clutter so that your room has a spa-like feel. Adjust the atmosphere in the evening by making your bedroom dark, quiet and cool (between 60 and 67 degrees). Consider using an eye mask, earplugs or blackout curtains. Listen to relaxing music, white noise or ocean sounds if needed. I personally enjoy diffusing lavender, which is an essential oil known for its calming effects.
Don’t sleep on a full stomach: Eat your last meal at least 2 hours before bed. The body uses a lot of energy for digestion, whereas while you sleep your body diverts is resources to detoxification and cellular restoration. Your body remains in an active state because it requires a lot of energy for digestion, which is why you may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night if you eat a meal close to bedtime.
Mind your caffeine intake: Caffeine is a stimulant and can remain in our system hours after consumed. As a rule of thumb, it's best to avoid caffeine after 2:00 pm; it can be hard to fall asleep and stay asleep otherwise. Drink your most caffeinated beverages as early in the day as possible and taper off as you move into the early afternoon.
Journal your worries away: Are you preoccupied with the happenings of the day or worried about what might come tomorrow? It's common for worries to keep us lying awake. Write down what is causing you anxiety and make plans for what you can do the next day to reduce your worry. It will free up your mind and energy to move into deep and restful sleep.
Imagine waking up in the morning without needing to snooze your alarm, feeling ready to jump out of bed to start your day, instead of dragging yourself through your morning. This changes the game, for your mood, your health, your problem solving abilities, your productivity, and more! Do yourself a huge favor and make deep restorative sleep a priority. Once you see how great you feel, you won’t want to settle for sleep-deprived days again.
NOTE: If you experience excessive daytime drowsiness, fatigue, have been known to snore excessively, or seen to stop breathing in the middle of the night, consult with your doctor, and consider getting tested for a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.