Can you remember the last time you had a good night’s sleep?
If you have trouble falling asleep, wake up in the middle of the night, or frequently wake up feeling tired, chances are you aren’t getting enough sleep.
With our deadline-driven, screen-centered lives, is it any wonder that we have trouble getting a full eight hours of solid sleep? And in 2020 especially, it seems like we have even more things to keep us awake at night.
Sleep is a natural part of our body’s cycle, yet it seems so elusive and hard to attain. Is there a simple way to get more sleep?
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure a good night’s rest. In fact, how well you sleep at night can depend on how you spend your days. So if you can manage your habits during the day, you can improve the quality of your sleep at night. Here are tips to help you maintain a daytime routine that will prepare you for a good night’s sleep.
Get natural light in the morning
Getting a good night’s rest doesn’t start when your head hits the pillow. It actually starts when you wake up in the morning.
Your body produces more melatonin, a sleep hormone, in the evening, which helps cue your body’s internal clock to go to sleep. That’s why the most common sleep advice is to avoid screens before bedtime--the light from your phone or computer screen can disrupt melatonin production and tricks your body into thinking it’s day time, causing you to stay awake.
But did you know that your exposure to natural light can also affect melatonin levels?
Your body produces less melatonin during early morning hours, which is how your body’s clock knows to stay awake. That’s why it’s important to go outside and get natural light exposure during the day. It can help your body’s circadian rhythm, or inner clock, and help produce melatonin at night. According to this New York Times article, you should: “Go outside as soon as you wake up and spend at least 15 minutes in the morning sun.”
Other ways to get natural light early on in the day:
- Try having your morning cup of coffee or breakfast outside.
- Open the curtains and let natural light in.
- Do your work by a window or bright lamp.
- Go for a morning walk or do your exercise routine outside.
Have a regular exercise routine
Speaking of exercise, a regular workout can also contribute to a good night’s sleep and help your body produce melatonin. But try to avoid scheduling your workouts in the evenings since exercise produces the hormone cortisol, which can stimulate you and make it harder to fall asleep. Try doing your workouts in the morning or early afternoon, which will also be good for getting your body in tune with your circadian rhythm.
Maintain a regular sleep schedule
A sleep schedule isn’t just for babies and little kids. It’s also important for adults to have a consistent sleep routine. This means going to bed and getting up at the same time, every day of the week. So if you go to bed late on a Saturday night, you should avoid sleeping in the next morning. Otherwise, you’ll throw off your body’s internal clock.
If you’re feeling fatigued and need to take a nap, the ideal nap time is between 1pm and 3pm. But try to avoid napping for longer than 30 minutes. If you find yourself nodding off after dinner but don’t want to interfere with your bedtime schedule, you can do a low-stimulation activity like washing the dishes or writing a gratitude list in your journal or doing a self-care routine.
Manage your stress during the day and unwind at night
We’ve all been there: it’s late at night but our mind is racing with a million thoughts. It’s no secret that stress is a major contributor to restless sleep. Stress releases cortisol, our body’s fight-or-flight hormone, which stimulates our body to stay awake.
Fortunately, a to-do list isn’t as threatening as a large predator--although it may seem like it! :) Here are things you can do to manage your stress during the day and unwind in the evening, so that you can be in a relaxed state before bed.
- Do something with your hands. Numerous studies have shown that activities like adult coloring books or knitting or gardening can help relieve stress. These simple tasks force you to focus on the task at hand, which helps keep stressful thoughts at bay. So the next time you need some stress relief, try gardening outside and get some natural light exposure while you're at it. When you’re trying to unwind at night, try coloring or knitting with some soothing music in the background.
- Write it down. Use a notebook for journaling and articulate what’s occupying your mind. The act of putting something down on paper can provide great relief and put your mind at ease. Sometimes when you see your thoughts on paper, they can appear less overwhelming.
- Reflect on it. If you’re unsure what’s weighing on you, try using the prompts on the Ink+Volt Reflection Pad to gain more awareness. By using the structured checklist, you’ll have a better sense of what your needs are and what you need to do to take care of yourself.
- Make a Tomorrow List. If your mind is active and worried at night, then try to relax by making a Tomorrow List. This New York Times article suggests writing your to-do list the night before to help relieve your stress and clear out any mental clutter. You can try writing this list in the late afternoon so that you can fully devote your evening hours to relaxing.
- Take a hot bath. There’s nothing like a hot bath to soothe your spirits. A hot bath can help reduce your cortisol levels and keep your body temperature down, both of which can help prepare your body to fall asleep at night.
Have a bedtime ritual
Remember when you were little and your parents would read you a bedtime story and tuck you into bed? As adults, it’s important to have bedtime rituals to help signal to your body and mind that it’s time to relax and go to sleep.
Maybe this means changing into comfortable pajamas before bed or re-reading an old book. Try to avoid reading anything that’s too stimulating, such as thrillers or overly complex, academic books (unless you find these books relaxing! :)) The point is to relax your mind instead of engaging it. Re-reading a pleasurable book is a good idea because you already know what to expect and it won’t tax your mind before bed.