When you’re stressed, it’s tough to get a good night of sleep.
Waking up in the middle of the night with your mind running isn’t a fun experience, especially when it feels like it happens every night.
And somehow you fall asleep just before your alarm goes off which prompts you to snooze the alarm, finally get out of bed feeling rushed, and start the day feeling stressed.
It’s a cycle that will run you into the ground mentally, emotionally, and physically.
So what do you do?
Set yourself up for a good night of rest with these five simple steps for a better night of sleep
Go to bed and get out of bed at the same time. Doing this sets your circadian rhythm (internal clock).
If you typically go to bed at 10 pm during the week and choose to stay up later on Friday and Saturday nights, your internal clock will be thrown off. This results in inconsistencies around waking up.
Personally, I set an alarm on my phone that I refer to as a “technology curfew”. For me, the alarm is set for 8:30pm and it’s my que to start winding down for the night. I finish whatever I am doing that involves technology and begin my nightly routine that sets me up for a great night of rest. My head typically hits the pillow around 9:30pm.
Stop looking at screens two hours before bed. The blue light from screens tells our brain that it’s daytime and doesn’t allow your body to down regulate and prepare for sleep. You can download apps that change the light tone of your phone, tablet, or laptop to help with this. A good pair of blue light blocking glasses are an excellent tool to use in the evening as well because most light bulbs, especially LED, give off blue light. This light is received in our brain similar to sunlight which tells our body that we should be awake.
Ideally we would spend our evenings in a home lit by fire (candlelight). That’s not really practical in the twenty-first century. Blue light blocking glasses change the tone of light coming into our eyes and tell the brain that it’s nighttime.
Secondly, in general the screens we look at are typically stimulating us. Whether we’re watching a sporting event, documentary, or mindlessly scrolling through social media our brain is being stimulated, not calmed. Taking a pause from this stimulation before turning in for the night helps us fall asleep faster when we go to bed.
Opt for reading a book (real paper book) or solving puzzles before bed. The best books before bed include stories, fiction or nonfiction. Stories activate the right hemisphere of the brain (creative side) which is a great way to shift ourselves out of the left brain (analytical/logical) space that we spend most of our day in. Like reading stories, fun puzzles will bring out our creative and curious tendencies. Personally, if I’m not reading a book before bed I will opt to listen to a book and do Sudoku before bed.
Your bedroom should be as black and cool as a cave. Studies have shown that shining a light on exposed skin (the back of the knee) will disturb sleep patterns. A dark room sets you up for a great night of rest. I can’t tell you how many times I have unplugged alarm clocks and covered the tiniest of lights in hotel rooms to make them as dark as possible. The little green light on my hallway smoke detector has a piece of electrical tape covering it. (Of course, don’t do anything to compromise your safety.)
A cool environment (64-66 degrees Fahrenheit) contributes to metabolic and hormonal regulation as you sleep. Think about how well you rest when summer temperatures give way to the cool fall air. You want to mimic that situation each and every night, when possible. A programmable home thermostat will allow you to keep things cool at night without making a conscious effort. Set it and forget it.
Keep electronics out of the bedroom. To put it bluntly, the bedroom should be for sleeping and making love. Put your phone to bed, in airplane mode, in another room. If you are using your phone as your alarm it should, at the very least, be in airplane mode. (Start your morning well by keeping it in airplane mode for the first hour or so, after getting out of bed.)
Electronics give off electromagnetic frequencies that disturb the cellular structure of our body. If you do enough research you’ll find studies saying that EMFs aren’t harmful. These studies are typically conducted by electronics manufacturers and the data is inconclusive at best.
Personally, when I go to bed, my phone is in airplane mode in another room and my wifi router is powered off. The only electronic device in my bedroom is the remote that I use to power off the router’s power outlet. It only emits a signal if I am pushing one of the buttons.
***Bonus*** Stop eating three hours before bed. If you plan to be in bed by 10 pm stop eating no later than 7pm. This allows your body to digest your dinner before you go to bed and put energy into the functions it’s meant to perform when you are asleep. Digesting a meal takes a lot of energy plus a full stomach restricts the motion of the diaphragm changing the way you breathe.
As you sleep the body’s primary task is the regeneration and repair of your body. Setting yourself up for a great night of rest is one of the most simple and highest return investments you can do for yourself. Implementing one or more of these steps will make a difference in how you rest.
I purposefully didn’t include suggested supplements because I don’t want to encourage you to lean on the idea that a “magic pill” will fix poor sleep. That being said, I highly recommend staying away from melatonin, especially with kids.
If you’re interested in going more in depth on any of these points or have questions, shoot me an email email@example.com and we can continue this conversation.