Do you lie awake at night, unable to fall asleep? Does your mind replay the problems of the day or the things on tomorrow’s to-do list? Does chronic pain or restless syndrome make it challenging to get comfortable? Or are you worried about finances, health, your children, or your parents?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. is not getting enough sleep regularly. The CDC recommends adults 18-60 years old get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
Importance of Sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for your overall health. Your brain needs adequate sleep to form pathways for learning, memory, attention, and regulating mood. Sleep deficiency has been linked to an increased risk for physical health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and stroke.
If getting enough sleep sounds like an impossible dream (pun intended), keep reading for some proven ways to get more ZZZs.
Creating a bedtime routine
A bedtime routine is a set of activities you do in the same order each night before you go to bed. More than likely, you had a bedtime routine when you were a child.
Developing a nightly ritual will help your mind and body relax to prepare for better sleep. Let’s look at some ways to create a personal bedtime routine to improve your sleep:
- Establish a regular bedtime. It should be a time that works with your natural sleep-wake cycle, if at all possible. If you do shift work or work late at night, it may take longer for your body to adjust to your bedtime.
- Put away the electronics at least 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. The blue light on screens (computers, tablets, phones, and televisions) keeps your brain from producing the body’s sleep chemical known as melatonin. In other words, your brain thinks it’s still daytime if you’re looking at your devices. You can also dim the lights to help promote more melatonin production.
- Take a warm bath or shower about an hour before bedtime. Your core body temperature naturally drops at night to help you fall asleep. The bath will cause your body to heat up, but it will cool down when you get out, mimicking your body’s natural response. Plus, a warm bath helps relax sore muscles and tension.
- Enjoy percussion massage therapy before crawling under the covers. Percussion massagers are popular devices commonly used by athletes, but the benefits go far beyond the playing field. These easy-to-use devices deliver a deep tissue massage that releases myofascial tension, relaxes muscles, relieves pain, and improves circulation. Regular massage therapy also triggers the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps stabilize your mood, reduce anxiety, and regulate sleep. It’s also the precursor for melatonin.
- Journal or write down your to-do list. Releasing your thoughts before bedtime frees your mind, allowing you to relax. Journaling doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as taking a few minutes to list the things you are thankful for or listing what you need to do the next day. Either way, studies have shown it’s beneficial for sleep.
- Read a (real) book. Spend 20 minutes or so reading a book that relaxes the mind and leaves you with good thoughts before you close your eyes.
- Create a sleep oasis. Invest in a good quality mattress, comfy cotton sheets, and pillows that support your sleep style. Declutter your room. Play soft, instrumental music to help you wind down. Set an automatic timer that stops playing after you doze off. Diffuse lavender essential oils to promote relaxation and ensure your bedroom temperature isn’t too warm. Ideally, your thermostat should be set between 60 to 70 degrees, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Use these ideas to develop a routine that works for you. It may take some trial and error, but don’t give up. Soon, you’ll look forward to your rituals and the deep, beautiful sleep that follows.
Important: If you suspect you may have a medical condition such as obstructive sleep apnea, depression, or anxiety disorder that inhibits your ability to fall asleep, please consult your doctor for help.