Sleep is a basic biological necessity, and feeling tired doesn’t have to be considered normal. Getting better sleep is absolutely a possibility, because it’s a byproduct of the things we do every single day. Making a few intentional tweaks to your daily routine might be all that it takes to start sleeping more soundly–here are three to consider.
“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Dekker
According to the Sleep Foundation, most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep every night.
While your natural sleep cycle probably isn’t exactly the same as mine, we’d both be a lot happier if we experienced a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis.
Not getting enough sleep can impair our long-term memory, primes us to focus on negative experiences, dulls judgment, interrupts focus, lowers immune function, causes hormone imbalances, kills brain cells, and places stress on the body.
Sleep deprivation does not have to be your destiny.
With better sleep comes higher energy levels, improved overall health, lower stress levels, and a more stable mood. That all sounds pretty good to me.
Here are three stress-busting sleep habits that I’ve tried with positive results. I hope at least one of these suggestions works for you. Whichever tweaks you do decide to make, make sure you practice these changes for at least a few days, even weeks. Sometimes it takes the mind and the body a little time to catch up. Give yourself time.
3 Healthy Habits for Better Sleep and Happier Days
1. Stick to a schedule.
Getting better sleep is a result of what we do all day long, not just at night. By cultivating a healthy morning, afternoon, and evening routine, you’ll enhance the quality and length of your nighttime Zzz’s.
To better understand how your current habits affect your rest, track your sleep every day for two or more weeks. Include things such as:
- The type and length of exercise you engaged in that day
- How much sunlight you were exposed to during the day
- What you last ate/drank before going to bed (and when)
- Your bedtime
- Approximate time you fall asleep after laying down
- How many times you wake up during the night
- How you feel the next morning
Compare your daily activities with your nightly sleep patterns to see what’s helping or hindering sleep. Track anything and everything, if you must.
Here are a few ideas to help you create your own healthy routine:
- Wake up and go to bed at the same time–even on weekends–to keep your hormone cycle regular.
- Get at least 30 minutes of sun exposure to encourage higher serotonin levels during the day, and improved melatonin production at night.
- Engage in aerobic exercise at least four hours before bedtime (it raises body temperature for about four hours which keeps you awake). The following cooling effect promotes sleep.
- Drink plenty of water during the day, but stop drinking about two hours before bedtime so you aren’t prompted to wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
- Avoid caffeine (such as tea, coffee, and soda) after 2pm, because it’s a stimulant that stays in your system for about eight hours and can hinder sleep.
- Prepare for tomorrow, tonight. Iron your clothes. Pack your lunch. Gather your belongings beforehand so you aren’t rushing in the morning, which may be enough to encourage you to calm down a little more tonight.
- Pray, meditate, or write a thank-you note to the universe before bedtime to relax the mind.
- Repeat bedtime affirmations.
- Stretch gently, give yourself a massage, or practice light yoga before bedtime to relax the muscles.
Get into a routine and stick to it for at least two or three weeks. After that time, check in with your sleep patterns and take note of which new habits coincided with positive change.
2. Write down your thoughts, worries, and joys.
Can’t turn your mind off? If something has been troubling you, get it out of your head and onto a piece of paper. Identify and voice your concerns in writing, and jot down possible solutions for each.
If something positive happened (there’s always something to be grateful for), end the day with your gratitude journal, jotting down three to five things that are deserving of your gratitude today. What happened today that you’re thankful for? Why did it happen? Who helped you? What beautiful thing did you see, create, or partake in?
Also consider keeping a happiness journal to record the positive highlights of your day, which encourages peace of mind and a peaceful night’s sleep.
Whatever you’re writing down, feel it as you write it. Don’t just put words on paper–put the energy behind those words on paper, too. Consider it tucked away for the night, nestled in between the pen and the paper. All is taken care of for today, and now it’s time to rest.
3. Distract yourself from your thoughts.
Block out the disruptive noise coming from outside your door or inside your head. Sound machines, soothing music, meditation tapes, and audio books can help drown out the chatter and promote restful sleep. Find what works for you.
Personally, I find that listening to wordless music takes me to a place of deep sleep. Read about all the amazing health benefits of music.
I also use the free Relax H. MD app on our tablet, which lets you adjust the volume, set a timer, and create your own favorite combination of sounds (there are a lot to choose from). I find that setting the timer for 2 hours instead of one gives me more time to fall asleep without feeling rushed.
What helps you fall asleep?
Please share your own habits for better sleep and any insight on this topic with me in the comments.
Share this post with someone who could use a restful night’s sleep.
Free watercolor background by Pixel Buddha; lettering by Aim Happy.