We worry about reducing stress, getting enough exercise, eating better, but where does sleep stack up in our list of priorities? It should be toward the top of the list because it affects everything we do and how we feel. Before you go to sleep, try these practical ways to get more sleep, so you feel more rested.
How much sleep do you need?
How much sleep do you need at night? Are you getting enough? According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, but some people require more and others less.
Studies indicate that less sleep is detrimental to your health. Sleep deprivation is no joke, but unfortunately something many families experience. Some infants just don’t sleep!
If women don’t experience sleeplessness with children, they may deal with it during menopause. The shift in hormone levels makes it difficult for some women to get enough sleep. Preparation can help women deal with the many menopause symptoms like lack of sleep.
Stressors in life like uncertain times, unemployment, and increased personal or professional demands can also make it harder to sleep.
If it continues for an extended period of time you know first-hand the health effects of getting too little sleep.
You don’t feel great, and lack of sleep increases your risk of such conditions as diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cognitive decline. Even more surprising, too much sleep can have the same health impact!
Getting the right amount of sleep allows your brain to refresh itself, clear clutter, and maintain its wiring and cellular connections. Think of sleep as a carwash for the brain and your body’s way of filling your tank with energy each day.
How to go to sleep fast
So, how do you fall asleep quickly and stay asleep so you feel more rested when you wake up? It starts with what you do before you go to sleep. You want to create a pre-sleep routine.
You can even make some of these changes immediately.
These are sleep tips to go to sleep fast.
Technology hurts and helps our sleep. First, how it helps us sleep better.
A fitness tracker is a great sleep tool. It’s a great starting point to evaluate your sleep habits because it tells you how long you sleep. Depending on its sophistication, the fitness tracker may calculate your REM and deep sleep too. It’ll even average out your rest on a weekly basis. The data will help you make adjustments to your sleep schedule, so you get more shut-eye.
Turn off your devices
Technology gives us a benchmark for how well we’re sleeping, but some devices hurt our sleep. We’re always checking our devices for personal and professional purposes.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends turning off your devices at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep. The blue light emitted by electronic devices suppresses melatonin production, according to the National Sleep Foundation. This hormone controls your sleep and wake cycle. So, it’s harder to stay and fall asleep when you have less melatonin in your body.
In addition, a study done by researchers at California State University, Dominguez Hills, found digital anxiety plays a role in our ability to get the right amount of sleep. Some people lose sleep because of the fear of missing out on something in the digital world.
Dr. Larry Rosen and his colleagues studied a group of 400 students. They put an app on their phone called “Instant.” It counted the number of times the student unlocked their phone during the day and how long they spent on their phone in an unlocked position.
They found that students who couldn’t be away from their phones, were also more often to check it at night. That meant more time awake at night.
So, how do you reduce this digital anxiety? It starts long before you enter the bedroom. It needs to become part of your daily routine. Stop checking your phone during the day and before you go to bed. Rosen points out you don’t want to “react” all day to email alerts and other notifications on your phone. Instead, turn it to silent, and establish times in your day where you update yourself on emails, news, and other alerts.
In the Harvard Business Review, Rosen writes that this helps your brain, retraining neurotransmitters especially cortisol. Your behavior during the day will spill over at night and lead to less anxiety, and more sleep!
Get to sleep fast by turning off your devices.
Set the mood for sleep
Create a pre-sleep routine. This tells your body it’s time to slow down and get ready for bed. Choose an activity before bed that will not cause anxiety.
Checking emails and other alerts on your phone cause more stress than you think. You may think it will help you close that chapter on the day, but looking at work emails or social media can cause anxiety. So, Rosen suggests a predictable activity like watching a show you like, reading a paper book, or listening to familiar music.
Preparing for bed should be a time to do nothing because doing nothing is doing something. It allows you to decompress, reflect, and recharge.
Create an environment that is conducive to sleep—quiet, dark (consider room-darkening shades or drapes if you get a lot of natural light), room temperature on the cool side. Bedrooms should be colder than the rest of your home to obtain optimal sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. They recommend a brisk 60 to 67-degrees. A programmable thermostat will make it easy to set the mood and drop the temperature at night.
Also, get a comfortable mattress and use the bedroom only for sleeping (and sex).
You can also practice meditation at night to get more sleep. Dim the lights, meditate, read, or listen to calming music.
If you have trouble settling down, there are audio and visual cues you can use to relax and meditate.
Modern meditation is a great way to calm down before bed and release the stress of the day.
Create a sleep routine
When you create a sleep routine, find time to wind down. Avoid working out right before going to bed. The increase in body temperature and the general activity revs your body up when you should be winding down.
Secondly, avoid large meals before bedtime. Try eating dinner or a snack at least 2, and preferably 4 hours before bed! That’s a long time for some, especially if you get home from work late but 4 hours is ideal.
Third, avoid alcohol before going to bed. Though you may initially fall asleep quickly, it is likely you will wake up a few hours later and at a time when you might have been ready to enter into a deep sleep phase, thereby decreasing both the duration and quality of the sleep you get.
How to fall back asleep in the middle of the night
So, we’re working on falling asleep. What happens when you wake in the middle of the night, and your mind starts racing again. Some of these pre-sleep exercises will help this, but it won’t go away automatically. So, here’s a middle of the night sleep hack. It’s much better than repeating the ABC’s over and over again or worrying about all the things you have to do the next day. Been there, done that!
Rosen suggests singing a song lyric over and over. Just a verse or two, rather than the whole song. He says the song blocks your anxiety and allows you to go back to sleep.
You can also practice meditation again!
Make sleep a priority
Once you figure out which method helps you sleep longer, put it into practice! Make sure you set aside enough time each night to work on your pre-sleep routine. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning as often as is realistically possible. Sleeping 4 hours one night and 10 hours another does not mean you have now averaged the 7 hours you need nightly.
If you need help figuring out what time to go to bed each night, use a sleep calculator like the National Sleep Foundation’s Bedtime Calculator. Select how much sleep you want, and what time you need to wake up. Hit calculate, and you’ll know what time to go to bed.
If nothing works, consult a sleep professional. There are sleep conditions like sleep apnea that may limit your ability to get the amount of deep sleep that you need. It’s a common sleep disorder, with more than 18 million adults affected by it. Plus, it’s a serious sleep disorder so get help if you need it!
The National Sleep Foundation allows you to search by zip code. There are sleep professionals in the Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. area who can help you get back on track!
Take the time to face the fact that your body needs sleep just like it needs water, food, and air. Only you can make sleep important enough in your life to take small steps to focus on getting a sufficient number of hours each day.
Ready to get more sleep?
Fill in the blank: Before I go to sleep, I will _____________. Share your thoughts in the comments.