Do you want to exercise better, eat healthier, have more willpower and more concentration, and be more productive? How about feeling less pain, strengthening your immune system, improving your relationships, making better decisions and losing weight? Get more sleep.
In an age where we do more, more, more in an attempt to be better, better, better, we’ve trained ourselves to think that the more we work the better we’ll be. However, any sleep deficit, impacts negatively on our performance. With smart, strong advocates such as Arianna Huffington and Gretchen Rubin, sleep is fast becoming the new health fix – it’s free and there’s no area of your life it can’t improve.
By now, most of us know that getting more sleep will improve our lives, but how? We tend to drink caffeine, stay up late on electronic devices, and then complain when we can’t sleep. Try these 50 things to sleep better. Who knows, it may change your life!
1. Drink less caffeine. Let’s start with the obvious. Caffeine has certain advantages, but it messes with our circadian rhythms. If you can’t cut your cuppa, keep it decaf after 2:00 pm.
2.Set a bedtime alarm. Sometimes, we need an alarm to make us get off the couch and into bed. Try it.
3.Create a bedtime ritual. Let your mind and body wind down by following a ritual every night. This should be an unrushed process full of pampering. You may want to include some of the things on this list.
4.Drink a warm glass of milk or a cup of herbal tea. Warm milk is not just a thing of old wives’ tales – it really can help to make you feel sleepy. Herbal teas with similar properties include chamomile, peppermint and rooibos (red bush tea). Remember that processed decaffeinated teas and coffees still contain some caffeine!
5.Take a bath. The process of lying down and relaxing in a warm bath (preferably with bubbles!) is a one that helps many people drop off.
6.Read fiction. While it can be tempting to read something instructive or work on self development before bed, especially if you don’t get much time to read, it doesn’t work to calm your thoughts. Read some light fiction, such as an old classic or a vintage detective story.
7.Dim the lights. Our brains are wired to wake up to light and to get sleepy as it darkens. During the evening, dim the lights and when you’re getting ready for bed and keep ‘em low.
8.Keep the room cool. Contrary to what you may expect, we sleep better in cool environments. Keep your room at about 20’C.
9.Warm your feet. However, put on those socks, or fill a hot water bottle. Keeping your hands and feet warm will help you to fall asleep.
10.Pamper your skin. Make it part of your bedtime ritual to cleanse, tone and moisturize. Your skin can get dehydrated during the night, and a pampering night cream or scented coconut oil can be a pleasant and relaxing part of your routine.
11.Embrace the dark side. We sleep better when it’s really dark. Put up heavy curtains or wear an eye mask to get better shuteye, and ensure that there are no electronic lights in your bedroom.
12.Wear pajamas. Wearing your boyfriend’s old clothes, or ratty gym t-shirts to bed may be functional, but you’ll hardly look forward to putting them on. Treat yourself to some cotton or silk pajamas that are for sleeping only – they’ll signify that when you’re wearing them, it’s time to sleep.
13.Exercise. Those who get regular exercise tend to sleep better.
14.Don’t exercise. However, don’t do any heavy exercise for a few hours before bedtime – it provides energy and wakes you up, instead of winding you down.
15.Stretch it out. A few light stretches done every night can reduce muscle and joint pain and relax you before bed.
16.Journal it out. While some choose to do it in the morning, and some in the evening, many people find it helpful to journal – if not about your day, then to note down what worries you, or your to do list. Done right, this can help to avoid the 3:00 am I-want-to-sleep-but-I’m-a-one-woman-list-maker problem.
17.Take note. For those times when you’re suddenly hit by a magical idea, or you remember a life-or-death to-do for the next day, I find it helpful to keep a pen and a stack of Post-its next to my bed. Writing it down means getting it off your mind.
18.Clean up. Before you get to bed, spend 15 minutes tidying the kitchen and fluffing up the cushions on the couch. Going to bed with a tidy house generally means a more uncluttered mind and better sleep.
19.Put out your clothes. While it may make you feel like you’re back at school, it can help to put your clothes out for the next day. Having an outfit ready means that you’re shepherding your mind in the direction of the following day, and makes for a better morning when you wake up.
20.Don’t binge on sleep. While it may be tempting to deprive yourself of sleep during the week and catch up by napping all weekend, you’re messing with your natural schedule. Instead, try to create a life where you get the sleep you need, every night.
21.Nap early and light. If you’re going to nap, keep it short and keep it early. Those long, deep Sunday-afternoon naps interfere with your circadian rhythm and are bound to keep you up that night. Napping can be a great way to catch up and reset your clock, but keep them at an hour or less, between 10:00am and 2:00pm.
22.Keep a consistent schedule. Good sleep hygiene means keeping as a consistent a schedule as possible. While it may be impossible never to have a late night again, make a schedule and stick to it whenever you can.
23.Lay off the booze. While alcohol can send you to sleep quickly, it interrupts your deep sleep later on in the night, and after drinking you’ll generally have sporadic, shattered sleep.
24.Use a grown up pillow. Good quality pillows that offer neck support can help you to sleep better, and will prevent you from waking up with a neck in spasm.
25.Upgrade your bedding. Keep your bedding fresh and clean, and make sure it’s comfortable – much like your pajamas, your bedding should be something that you can really look forward to crawling into.
26.Pop a pill. No, not that type of pill! Instead, try upping your intake of the mineral magnesium, or (with the advice of your doctor), try taking melatonin – the chemical that your body makes to help send you to sleep. Taking Vitamin D can also help.
27.Keep it tidy. A cluttered bedroom often means a cluttered mind. If you make one change today, clean up your bedroom and put things away. Remove piles of books and papers, hang up your clothes, and purge the room of all electronics.
28.Get smelly. We often underestimate the power of smell, and the amount of pleasure that great smells can give us. Lavender oil is known to help with sleep, so sprinkle some on your pillow.
29.Eat clean. During the night, your body works to digest your dinner. Avoid eating rich foods close to bedtime, and make sure you chew everything thoroughly. For a great night’s sleep, eat a light, healthy supper a few hours before bedtime.
30.Light a candle. Much like hot baths and essential oils, candles have a calming effect. Put a pretty one on your bedside table and let it flicker as you read before bed.
31.Turn it off. Turning off your devices several hours before bedtime has several advantages – it serves to take your mind off work and social network fun, and shuts down the LED lights that keep you awake.
32.Keep it out. For best results, keep all phones, tablets and computers out of your bedroom.
33.Monitor your sleep. Download an app, or use the FitBit tracker, to find out more about your sleep patterns.
34.Quit. If you haven’t already, stop smoking! Better sleep is only one of the many reasons to kick the habit.
35.Hydrate during the day, not at night. While drinking water and herbal tea before bed is a good thing, make sure that you’re not downing water in the evening to make up for not drinking during the day. Otherwise, you’ll be getting up to make frequent trips to the bathroom.
36.Meditate daily. Even a few minutes of daily meditation or mindfulness practice can help you to become calmer and live more in the present. Whether you meditate in the morning or at night, make it part of your daily routine for better sleep.
37.Practice relaxation exercises. After you’ve turned out your light and followed your sleep schedule, you should be relaxed and pleasantly sleepy. Focus on relaxing your body, one muscle at a time.
38.Just breathe. Breath deeply and slowly to calm down and get ready for bed. Focus on the in and out of your breath as you wait for sleep to take over.
39.Keep it quiet. Your bedroom should be as quiet as possible. If you live somewhere noisy or with heavy traffic, ensure that you cover it up with white noise from a fan or white noise app.
40.Keep your bedroom for two activities only. Sleep and sex, that’s it. Ensure that no work or socializing – even the virtual sort on your phone, happens in your bedroom. If your bedroom needs to fulfill more than one function, or if you keep your desk in your bedroom, make sure that your activities are clearly delineated into zones, and that your work space is tidy.
41.Create your schedule around your life. Only you know what works for you – how many hours of sleep you need, whether you’re a morning or evening person, or how you work. Design a schedule that works for you, one that you’ll be able to stick to.
42.Schedule your day, schedule your night. To get more sleep, ensure that you have a schedule for your day, and one for your night. Being organized means less stress when you’re trying to get to sleep, and that you’ll be able to fit everything in.
43.Put off the TV. Although some TV can be a great way to relax in the evenings, the flickering screen, loud noises and interesting plots can keep sleep away. Shut it down a while before bed, and read a book instead.
44.Freshen up. It makes sense that you’re more likely to sleep well in freshly-washed, sweet smelling bedding in a clean, dust-free bedroom. Keep it clean and fresh for better sleep.
45.Quieten down. To quieten your mind, play classical or calming music before bed (searching for “sleep music” or “spa music” on YouTube provides a multitude of playlists).
46.Be grateful. Finishing every day on a positive note, by noting down or thinking about the things for which you are grateful, will help you to fall asleep focusing on the good, without worrying.
47.Let them know. It can be hard to implement a sleep system without the support of your family, partner or housemates. Chat to the people you live with and let them know why this is important to you. Instead of trying to force them to implement one too, let them know what time you’ll be winding down every night, and that they should try to be quiet, or not to disturb you after a certain time.
48.Prepare yourself. When you’re really tired, it can seem like far more effort to get ready for bed than to keep lying sleepily in front of the TV. To avoid this, get into your pajamas and get ready for the next day straight after dinner – that way you can head straight to bed when you need to.
49.Make it a priority. You may know how to get more sleep, but unless you make it a priority, it’s not going to happen. To reap the benefits of more sleep, make the commitment to yourself.
50.Remember why you’re doing this. To sum up the willpower you need to follow tough rules, remember why and use some of these tips to make it an indulgent activity that you can look forward to. Sleep has the power to change every aspect of your life for the better, and all the positive habits you want to foster – those related to exercising, eating, working and loving better, become much easier when you’re well slept.