A daily routine perfectly designed to make you sleep well is the keep to happy, sunny days, when you don’t feel the need to overdo it on caffeine. Sleep hygiene is often disregarded, as more and more people lose sight of how important good sleep really is. We like to stay up all night and party, watch movies and shows, read or talk to people. But that’s not doing our systems any good. Here are 12 habits to help you sleep well and shake off that feeling of fatigue you dread every day.
#1. Establish a sleeping schedule and stick to it
This number one tip means you have to pick an hour for going to bed and one for waking up and sticking to them as best as you can. As far as going to sleep goes, try to pick an hour when you are naturally sleepy. There is no point in setting your bedtime at 10 o’clock if you’re not tired, and you’ll just toss and turn for two hours before you get sleepy.
Your waking moment should be one your body chooses naturally. What does this entail exactly? Our bodies wake up naturally when the brain has had enough sleep. Simply put, at some point, the brain wakes up out of its own accord and gives the order for the waking up hormones to be released, so that your body can wake-up as well. Evidently, this process means you don’t actually need an alarm clock. If you do, that’s because you’re not getting enough sleep, and you have to interrupt the sleeping cycle and forcefully wake up your brain.
If you find you have to set an alarm every day, go to bed earlier. Once you’ve established your going-to-sleep and waking up hours, stick to them, even on weekends and vacations.
#2. Don’t sleep in
This piece of advice probably sounds like torture to you, but, in fact, it harms you more than you think. Every time you sleep in, you disrupt your sleeping schedule, and it will just get harder and harder to get back on track. If you have a free day or a weekend off, wake up at the same time you would during the working week.
If you feel the need to sleep some more or even catch up on some sleep you lost, it’s better to take an afternoon nap than to sleep in.
#3. Take a minute to think about napping
While we’re on the subject, you should also think about the way you nap as well, because that can be a two-way street. It can be beneficial, in a situation like the one described above, but it can also spoil your sleep hygiene and you won’t be able to sleep well at all.
If you find you get sleepy very late at night, if you have symptoms of insomnia or if your daytime sleeping bouts are keeping you up in any way, ditch them as soon as possible. As already shown, anything that disrupts your sleeping pattern should be avoided at all cost.
#4. Avoid sleeping after meals
Getting sleepy after hearty meals is a regular thing. The blood rushes to your stomach to help it digest the food, as well as to the other organs that participate in this process. All this internal work leaves your brain feeling fuzzy and wanting sleep.
If this is your case as well, there are two things you can do.
- Do not nap, as this will cause more damage. Instead, try to get up off the couch or from your desk and walk around, have some coffee, go outside for a few minutes or do things to keep you from falling asleep.
- Do not eat hearty meals. The heavier the food, the sleepier you will get, because the stomach will have a hard time processing that food. Lighter meals such as salads and fruit will not make you feel drowsy at all. When nighttime comes, you will finally sleep well
#5. Stay away from electronics
They emit a type of blue light that is disruptive when it comes to sleep. The impact your devices have can be minimized if you use smaller screens, for example, or software that adjusts the light of the monitor, such as f.lux. These devices include your smartphone, tablet, laptop, PC, and TV.
As far as tips to sleep well go, say goodbye to watching movies on your laptop or shows on TV late at night. You might think they’re helping you relax, but they are actually engaging you and winding you up. They stimulate rather than help you fall asleep, so they should be avoided. You can listen to relaxing music, if you wish or read, which brings us to our next piece of advice.
#6. Be smart about your reading
Although you may find it funny, the best option for reading is still books. Good old paper or hardbacks that don’t harm your eyes and bombard your brain with disruptive electronic light.
Another thing you probably believe is that e-readers are good for your eyes. They’re not. Studies have shown that those particular devices which are lit from behind, such as the iPad or Kindle Fire, are actually more disruptive than the ones lit from the front. These include the Nook GlowLight and the Kindle Paperwhite.
However, if your heart is set on an e-reader rather than a traditional book, you should go for an e-ink reader that doesn’t benefit from its own light source. This will make you chief of the lights show and you get to decide the source and quantity of light that reaches your eyes and thusly, your brain.
#7. Keep your room dark to sleep well
The darker the room, the better you will sleep. This means that, if you want to sleep well, you should have no night lights, no TV, laptop, tablet or phone, and no outside light either. Buy a set of thick curtains and thoroughly cover your windows every night, to help your melatonin levels and your wellness.
Making sure your room is completely dark at night also means not using electronic clocks, because even the red digits on a clock can disrupt your brain while you sleep. You also needn’t turn on the light if you get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or get a glass of water. Most specialists say it’s good if you have a small flashlight at hand for that. However, seeing as it might prove a bit difficult to go to the toilet with a flashlight in your own home, you can also install a very dim nightlight somewhere on the way to the bathroom or kitchen.
Turning on a full light in the middle of the night, even for a few minutes, might actually keep you from falling back asleep. To sleep well, try to avoid it.
#8. Drink less caffeine
If you find you’re having trouble falling asleep at night or even staying asleep, then you should try reducing your caffeine intake. Even if you drink it in the morning, caffeine can remain in your system for up to 10 or even 12 hours. This means it will still be there by the time you’re thinking of going to bed.
You can reduce the total volume of caffeine you introduce to your system every day or cut the caffeine you have after lunch. Needless to say, caffeine in the evening is a terrible idea. Stay away from energizing drinks and black tea as well, because they are packed with caffeine too. Switch to decaf and sleepy-time tea if you feel the need for a hot beverage before bed.
#9. Never drink many liquids before bed
This piece of advice is ages old, but still worth mentioning here. To avoid getting up to relieve yourself during the night and, thusly, waking up more times than necessary, don’t drink any liquids up to two hours before you go to sleep.
It’s also advisable you stay away from foods with a high water content, such as watermelon, for example. Building on the idea of food to stay away from, don’t eat anything too salty or too spicy. Excess salt will make you want to quench your thirst, and spicy food may give you stomach aches and heartburn. Light food is always preferred before you go to bed.
On the matter of whether you should eat or not before bed, most experts and nutritionists advise you experiment a bit with this. People are built differently, which means they have different needs. Some should not eat at all prior to going to bed, as food will give them trouble sleeping. Others actually need a light snack, because it calms the brain and helps them rest. Don’t overdo it, though. Half a turkey sandwich, a granola bar, a small bowl of cereal, a yogurt or a banana should do the trick. Never go for French fries or onion rings before bed.
#10. Try relaxation and meditation techniques
These techniques are easy to do and available to everyone. You can even do them in bed. Lay down in a comfortable pair of pajamas and cover yourself with the blanket. Start the process of deep breathing. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths, every time you do so making the breath you take even deeper than the previous one.
Continue by relaxing your muscles. Make sure your bed mattress is comfortable, not too soft and not too hard. Muscle relaxation needs to start at your toes and make its way up. Uncurl your toes and let all your muscles from your legs, abdomen, chest, and arms slowly unwind. Imagine you’d like to ‘sink’ into the mattress, so you’ll need to let all your muscles free.
The next and final step of the relaxation technique is to clear your mind of everything, as best as you can. Do not think about your problems, your work, your bills or the people in your life. It’s a time when you need to be alone with yourself because that’s the only way you can get truly relaxed. Envision a relaxing, happy place. Build it however you want, no one will know. Concentrate on this place and how good it makes you feel and try imagining falling asleep there.
#11. Remove all noise sources to sleep well
Another important aspect that might help you sleep well is the removal of all sources of unwanted noise. If your neighborhood is too loud, close all the windows. Foreign and disturbing sounds such as dogs barking, cars honking, and noisy people will disturb your sleep. If you cannot close the windows, mask the sounds with a fan or some chill-out music.
There are also white noise machines that can do this. Try earplugs or setting a radio between stations to create your own white noise. Sound sources also include people within your household. Therefore, make sure you tell everyone about your sleeping schedule and that you need them to be quiet so that you can rest.
#12. Regulate the temperature in the room
Most people state they sleep best if their bedroom is somewhat cool and very well ventilated. Once again, you must experiment with different temperatures and see which one suits you. However, you will probably find that a room that is not too cool and not too hot is perfect for a nighttime good time.
Crank or close a window, leave your air conditioner on or bring in a small fan. Use comfortable and soft beddings, with a soothing pattern and color. Never go for bright, bold patterns, as they will stimulate the brain even in the dark.
As long as we’re on the ‘bed’ topic, make sure you only use it for sleeping and intimate moments. Don’t eat in bed, don’t read, work or watch movies if you can help it. Doing all sorts of activities in bed will train your brain to believe it’s actually somewhat of a ‘working zone’ where it doesn’t need to shut down.
Keeping the bed for sleep and intimacy only will program your brain to understand that, once you get to that spot, it needs to shut down and go to sleep.
Bonus tip: the most important thing you need to remember is that, when it comes to sleep, it’s not the quantity, but the quality that matters. Even a two-hour power nap can work miracles if done correctly while a 10-hour low-quality sleep fest may leave you feeling like you didn’t sleep well at all.