It doesn’t feel like anybody is getting great sleep these days, whether you’re stressing over your job, fallout from the global pandemic, or having to work from home while homeschooling kids. We all have so much more on our plates lately, and trying to keep up with it all can make sleep even more difficult.
Lack of sleep makes you tired and unable to focus, which isn’t conducive at all to being productive throughout the day. But not getting enough sleep can lead to some serious health effects such as cancer and obesity, as well as put you more at risk for dangerous accidents. Getting enough good sleep is crucial to your health.
We’re going to take a look at some of the most common reasons you’re staying awake at night and how to balance them for a better night’s rest. Read on for these tips to fight insomnia!
Start with Sleep Hygiene
We’re washing our hands more than ever, going through hand sanitizer like it’s going out of style, and vowing at least 30 times a day not to touch our faces. Good sanitary hygiene protects us from getting sick, but sleep hygiene can also play a huge role.
But what is sleep hygiene?
Well, similar to the ways you prevent bacteria and viruses from entering your body, sleep hygiene prevents light, noise, and other distractions from disrupting your sleep. You’ll know you have poor sleep hygiene if you can’t fall asleep at night, you’re waking up throughout the sleep cycle, and you’re tired throughout the day (even if you thought you had slept well).
Wearing a sleep mask can block out light from the outdoors, other parts of your house, and even your alarm clock. Using a white noise machine or fan can help to mask outside noises, and can sometimes serve as a cue at bedtime that it’s time to fall asleep. Make sure you have the right pillow and mattress for you—if you’re uncomfortable, sore, or toss and turn, you may need to make an investment in better sleep products.
In essence, look at everything in your bedroom or home that could potentially disrupt a peaceful night’s sleep and troubleshoot ways to eliminate or buffer them (and sorry, but if your significant other is a snorer, we can’t help you there!).
Set a Bedtime Routine
Setting a bedtime routine can set the tone for sleep, even if your mind and body are wide awake and the last thing on your mind is sleep. When you create a routine around sleep and stick to it like clockwork every night for at least a month, your body’s circadian rhythms will adjust, and you’ll be far more likely to fall asleep at a decent hour.
Your bedtime routine should be personalized to you, and what works great for one person may not create the same magic for the next person. Optimize your practice as you go! Here’s a sample routine for you to try:
- Doctors recommend taking melatonin two hours before bedtime and taking smaller amounts (1-3mg) is much more effective than taking larger doses.
- Set a nightly alarm for 9:30pm to remind you that bedtime is at 10. This will give you time to wrap up anything you’re currently in the middle of so you can start your routine on time.
- This is also the time to turn off—and keep off—blue screens, which can disrupt your melatonin production. This includes TVs, phones, tablets, and some e-readers.
- Take a warm (but not hot) shower at 10. You might try some aromatherapy when your bathroom is nice and steamy. Lavender, bergamot, and sage are fantastic for invoking a sense of calm.
- Right out of the shower, massage some lotion or salve into your skin. The scent may help you feel relaxed, but even if you’re not into scents, massaging any type of cream into your skin stimulates blood flow, increases feel-good hormones, and promotes relaxation.
- Brush your teeth and take care of any other before-bedtime routines, such as taking supplements. Once you crawl into bed, you’re in for the night!
- Now it’s time for bed. If you’re having a hard time at first without your phone or TV, invest in some Bluetooth headphones or a sleep mask with them built in. Turn on a meditation or sleep app to help occupy your mind as you drift off. Or read a paper book or magazine.
- Breathe slowly and deeply when you feel anxious. The 4-7-8 breathing method has been shown to help reduce anxiety and promote sleep. Give it a try!
Give yourself some grace as you establish your routine. You’re going to struggle here and there, and like any new routine, the best way to make it work is to hold yourself accountable and keep working at it.
Get Some Sun Throughout the Day
A lot of us grew up hearing that we need to stay out of the sun and wear sunblock religiously. Well…yes and no. Sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D in our bodies, and vitamin D is crucial to boosting our mood and energy levels, among other vital functions. If you’re not getting enough sunlight, you’re at higher risk for obesity, psychiatric illness, depression, thyroid dysfunction, and more elevated cortisol (your body’s stress hormone) production.
Sleep specialists recommend getting at least 15 minutes of the early morning sun. Take off your hat, roll up your sleeves, and soak it all in! If you’re planning to stay outdoors longer than that, then you can put on some sunscreen and a hat to avoid getting a sunburn. You might as well knock out two wellness tasks at once and take a walk when you get your sunshine.
You’ve likely heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which can happen to some when the clocks change and the days get shorter. When you’re not getting any sunlight because you’re working from home, you could feel as if you have SAD year-round.
Watch What you Eat and Drink
Your diet affects not only your weight, but your overall feeling of health, too. And sleep is no exception! Here are some of the ways that food and drink can help or hinder your nighttime routines.
- Avoid caffeine after noon. You might not feel buzzed from the caffeine at 8pm, but it can sure keep you from falling asleep for several hours.
- Don’t eat less than two hours before bed, and avoid decadent dinners. The foods you eat can keep you awake, especially if you’ve eaten something that makes your digestive organs more…excited.
- Reduce or cut out alcohol before bed. While we might be under the impression that alcohol makes us tired or relaxed, the opposite is actually true. Alcohol stimulates cortisol, which can make you snap up wide awake at 3am.
- Smoking or vaping before bed is also a no go. Nicotine is a stimulant and can leave you feeling wired for several hours.
- Foods that can help you sleep include kiwis, turkey, tart cherry juice, nuts, and rice.
We hope this has given you some ideas for fighting insomnia and getting a better night’s sleep. With time and perseverance, you’ll have your sleep routine down, and your overall picture of health will improve because of it.
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