The Art of Rest: How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

As discussed in my previous post, our quality and quantity of sleep play an important role in our day to day functioning. It is beneficial for you to know and accept this information but it does not do you much good if you do not know how to get the sleep that you need. This post will list out a number of dos and don’ts of good sleep hygiene; however, I would like to state upfront that not all of these tips work for everyone, so experiment with making a few changes until you find what works best for you and your life.

Create a Consistent Sleep Schedule

For many of us, our days throughout the week do not all look the same; some mornings we get up early to go to the gym before work, some days we stay up late watching a guilty pleasure TV show, and then the weekend rolls around and any sort of schedule gets thrown out the window.  Well if you are someone who has difficulty falling asleep or getting up in the morning, this schedule shifting may be part of the problem

Research shows that going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday (yes even on weekends) helps regulate your sleeping pattern, making it easier to fall asleep and waking up in the morning with less difficulty.  It may be very difficult, if not impossible, for most of us to do this on a daily basis; however, making your sleep schedule as consistent as possible will have some positive impact on your overall quality of sleep. So start with your work week and see if creating consistency within this part of your schedule does what you need, and if it seems like that is enough then great! But if you feel like you could benefit from more consistency then start looking at what you can do to tweak your weekend schedule.

Watch What and When You Eat

Eating too much or too little before you go to lie down can have a negative impact on your ability to fall asleep.  If you eat too much, especially something heavy and greasy, your body will still be digesting the food while you are trying to fall asleep and the digestive process is not one that is very conducive to feelings of comfort and relaxation that are helpful for falling asleep.  On the other hand, if you go to bed hungry your mind will be preoccupied with the empty feeling in your stomach rather than focused on counting sheep.  Therefore, try not to eat any large meals within 3 hours of going to bed and have a light, healthy snack if hunger starts to surface within that time period.

Stay Away From Screens

Okay, this is one that I personally have difficulty with but it is an important one to bring up, especially in this generation of technology.  Looking at any type of screen, such as a computer, TV, tablet, or phone can be detrimental to your ability to fall asleep.  The light and movement of the screens’ images essentially “wakes up” the brain making it more difficult to calm down and settle in to rest.  A good rule of thumb is to not use anything with a screen within 1.5 hours of going to sleep; this gives your brain time to wind down and prepare itself for rest.  Looking for something to do in that 1.5 hours? Try journaling, reading a book (a real life book, not on a kindle), coloring in an adult coloring book, drawing, or getting things set up for your morning (setting out clothes, packing lunch, getting gym bag together, etc.). Even if you can’t seem to spare that full 1.5 hours of technology free time, try your best to limit you technology use as much as possible in that time frame, or try going for 30 minutes without screens before bed and see if that makes a difference.

Your Bed is For Sleep Only, Nothing Else!

We all do it, we are having a “lazy day” and do pretty much everything in bed; eat our meals, watch TV, do work (answer emails, study for a test, write blog posts), or just lay there and scroll through social media for hours.  Doing this once and a great while does not have much of an impact, but if you regularly use your bed for these types of activities then this could be leading to sleep troubles.  So if you have difficulty falling and/or staying asleep at night, try making your bed, and maybe even the whole bedroom, off limits during the day.  Try making your bed each morning so that you are not as tempted to mess it up by hoping under the covers when you get home from work.  Training your mind to associate your bed and the room that it is in with sleep and only sleep will help it know what to do more quickly when you finally do get to snuggle up under those covers that you have been thinking about all day.

Make Your Bedroom Your Sanctuary

This is about activating your 5 senses around bedtime. Find some essential oils that promote calm and serenity (lavender is always a good choice, but there are many others out there), invest in some high quality sheets for your bed and a really soft blanket or pajamas, listen to relaxing music or nature sounds (there are plenty of relaxation sounds on YouTube), and make your bedroom look like somewhere you want to go to relax and unwind.  Use light and calming colors for your walls and decorations and try not to have too bright of lights in the room.  Really set up a space that will instantly calm you as soon as you walk in.

Get Your Exercise, But Not Too Late

Exercising on a regular basis for 20-30 minutes can help tire out our bodies enough to help us sleep with more ease; however, it is important to plan for when this exercise is going to occur in your daily schedule.  Exercising too close to when you are planning on going to sleep can negatively impact you ability to fall asleep.  Exercise does a good job of tiring out the physical body, but it also does a good job of waking up the mind.  So planning you gym time for 9:00 at night will help the body get ready for rest but the mind will be ready to start the day all over again, leading to insomnia.  Therefore, planning your exercise time for the morning or during your lunch break can help wake the mind up and get it ready for the rest of its day and will give it a sufficient amount of time to wind back down before you hit the pillow.

Want even more tips??

These are just a few of my go to suggestions for changes to make in order to improve your overall quality and quantity of sleep.  If these tips and tricks do not seem to help as much as you would like, find more on my Pinterest board on sleep!  Leave any questions or comments that you have on any of the above information!  I hope you found something new that you would like to try tonight when you are preparing yourself for Dreamland.

Best Wishes and Sweet Dreams!

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