A few simple lifestyle changes can greatly increase your chances of quality, sleep-filled nights. Creating a positive sleep hygiene regimen will set you on a successful path for better physical and mental health.
Sleep hygiene begins during the day
Many things you do during the day can disrupt your quality of sleep. Drinking caffeine late in the day disrupts sleep patterns, including caffeinated sodas, teas, and energy drinks. Avoid eating late at night. If your body is sending energy to your digestive tract it isn’t at rest. Eat lighter meals earlier in the evening (a minimum of two hours prior to your bedtime). No exercise or late evening exercise also affects sleep patterns. Regular exercise promotes continuous sleep, while late night workouts energize the body and brain instead of signaling quiet time.
Additional tip: Consuming too much alcohol late at night may also hinder sleep, along with nicotine use and particular prescription drugs.
Set your bedtime (same time each night)
It is very important to sleep as close to eight hours a night as possible. We are all busy, but most of us understand that anything important is worth setting time aside to do. Quality sleep qualifies as very important. If you find yourself getting distracted, set an alarm and stick to it. Put aside the laundry, dishes, last email, TV, and prioritize. This regimen includes weekends (as best you can).
Additional tip: Start with a thirty minute bedtime regimen and build up to one hour.
Turn off your technology
This is an issue for most people (I get it). Try to remember the TV, Smartphone, Internet, and Kindle signal your body to be awake and alert. The light, noise and energy directed at you while using these items encourage your brain and body to be ready to react instead of directing it to prepare for a night of rest. To retrain your brain and body you first need to train your mindset. As part of your regimen, turn off your tech thirty minutes prior to your bedtime (build up to one hour). This will signal to the brain and body it’s time to “power down.” Keep your bedroom free of technology. This space should be reserved for restoration of your mind and body.
Additional tip: Keep your bedroom clear of clutter and work-related materials to encourage a stress-free mindset.
Take a warm shower or bath
Beyond the basics of washing your face and brushing your teeth, a warm shower or bath can be extremely comforting and help physically and mentally wash the day away. Calming aromas to encourage sleep include lavender, jasmine, and sandalwood. These scents can be included in your cleansers, soaks and essential oils.
Additional tip: Soft music and candles can increase the relaxation and prep your body for a blissful night of sleep.
If you don’t currently have a meditation practice because you don’t have the time, attention span, or mentality, take a moment to rethink what meditation can do for you. As defined, meditation is a practice of mind “self-regulation.” There are many different styles of meditation, so find what works for you. It can be as simple as focusing on your breath or sensing how each body part feels. You do not have to devote hours of your time to meditation. The purpose is to be calm, quiet and fully present.
Additional tip: If you still don’t think you have a meditation practice in your future, consider breathing exercises. Simple deep breathing drives oxygen rich blood to the brain and is extremely relaxing. 4–7–8 breathing is an easy way to get started.
Consistent, quality sleep is within your power to create. Take the time to commit to a sleep hygiene practice. Your mind and body will thank you with the gift of better health and well-being.