7 Steps To Getting The Best Sleep Of Your Life
In the world of wellness, sleep is top-of-mind. While in the past, rest was put on the backburner in favor of more buzzworthy topics like exercise and nutrition, sleep has gained ample attention in recent years. And for good reason: Without adequate or proper shut-eye, we aren’t able to function at our best. Gone are the days when co-workers and friends used to glorify all-nighters, and instead we’re bragging about the solid sleep we’re getting each time our head hits the pillow.
While the conversation around sleep is shifting, it’s still true that many of us aren’t getting the quantity and quality of sleep we need. If getting your 7 to 9 hours seems impossible, then keep reading for tips that’ll not only make better sleep achievable, but a regular habit you’ll be happy you started.
Imbibe Strategically (Or Not At All)
It’s a hard truth to swallow, but if a good night’s sleep is your goal, then alcohol isn’t your friend. While a night out with your girl gang may have once meant a cocktail at happy hour, a glass of wine with dinner, and ending the evening a night cap, research shows that while a drink may make you feel sleepy, it’ll keep you from getting the best sleep you can. Alcohol has sedative effects, but it disrupts REM sleep—the stage of deep snoozing that supports learning, memory, and mood and is imperative to waking up feeling rejuvenated and restored.
If you’d still like to partake in a glass or two, make sure that you’re calling it quits at least four hours before bed. However, any amount of alcohol consumption can contribute to a negative impact on sleep. While this impact varies between men and women (and is different for everyone), if you’re finding that just a glass can lead to a poor night’s sleep, try going without at least for a little while.
The good news is that the options for delicious mocktails are endless and the world of alcohol-free drinking has become a lot more interesting in recent years. Get started with this recipe, which is the perfect mix of everything we love about a refreshing mojito and the most delicious piña colada you’ve ever tasted.
Be Mindful Of Your Tech
The science is in—and your technology should be out of the bedroom. Blue light (the type of light emitted from LED and fluorescent lights as well devices like our smartphones, computers, and tablets) won’t help you out on your quest for rest. But in our hyper-connected world, it’s more challenging than ever to disconnect from technology. If you’re finding it hard to break up with your phone before bed, you’re not alone: A survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that 90% of Americans use an electronic device in the bedroom within an hour of trying to fall asleep.
Begin by reducing your use of technology shortly after the sun goes down. Two to three hours before going to bed, start powering down your devices and opt instead for more analog forms of entertainment (reading, journaling, a nighttime yoga routine). If you’re working late or can’t quite disconnect from your phone completely, set your devices to dark mode to reduce eye strain or invest in a pair of blue-blocking glasses to minimize the effect of blue light from your tech.
One way to make reaching for your phone less tempting? Create a dedicated space in your home (outside of the bedroom) where your phone lives at night. Shut it down completely, and if you’re going for bonus points, wait at least 30 minutes after you get up before turning it on again. You’ll wake up feeling less frazzled and more grounded as you start your day.
Set The Tone For Sleep
We’re not going to lie: There are definitely people who can fall asleep anytime, anywhere. Your friend who can get a good night’s rest on a red-eye? She’s the luckiest person in the world. For the rest of us, the struggle to settle our racing minds and restless bodies is real, but a simple way to help is by making your space a haven for optimal sleep.
Color can influence a lot, and if your bedroom walls are painted in hot pink or fire engine red, we might suggest rethinking your design choices. We’re all for creativity, but you want to be sure you’re choosing colors that are conducive to catching z’s. Cool hues such as light blue, gray, and lavender as well as neutral colors are ideal picks. These shades are known to help lower blood pressure and heart rate for a better night’s rest.
Now’s the time to think about the functionality of your bedroom, and if you’re using the space as a catch-all for out-of-season clothes, your kids’ toys, or exercise equipment, it’s time to find those things a new home. Doing a complete clear-out of all unnecessary clutter will help your mind rest easy at the end of the day. Even with these things out of view (we’re talking shoved under the bed or stuffed in a closet), removing items from the room completely will help guide your focus to where it needs to be: on sleep.
Time Your Movement Right
You might think that getting in your HIIT workout right before bed might wear you out, but you can consider this your excuse for not hitting the gym at night. There are countless body and mind benefits that come with movement, but for some people, restful sleep isn’t one of them. While exercise done during the day can have an amazing impact on sleep, squeezing in your workout too close to bed can have the opposite effect, boosting energy and increasing restlessness.
Like we said, this is different for everyone, and if you’re still getting a great rest after exercising before bedtime, keep doing what you’re doing. But if you’re finding that you’re waking up in the middle of the night without any other explanation, know that timing is key to maximizing your movement’s impact on sleep, and it may be time to switch to becoming a morning workout person.
Consistency Is Key
You’ve likely heard the myth that a poor night’s sleep on Thursday can be balanced out by sleeping in on Saturday. But the idea that you can “catch up on sleep” is exactly that—a myth. While the rare all-nighter can be offset with a power nap, if you’re regularly trying to function on less than seven hours of sleep, there’s not much you can do to make up for that missed time.
Sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on everything from memory retention to mood and even your immune system. Instead of going without the proper amount of sleep your body needs Monday through Friday and saving the weekends for sleeping in, make it a point to hop into bed around the same time each night and set your alarm (or for the lucky ones among us, wake up naturally) at the same hour every morning. And as tempting as it is, keep these times consistent even throughout the weekend for maximum benefit.
Supplement Where Needed
If you’re beginning to implement healthy sleep habits and practices but you’re still not getting the good night’s sleep you’re after, take a pause before desperately reaching for an over-the-counter medicine. Most contain some form of antihistamine, which can cause hyperactivity, and if you’re using them for long-term sleep support, know that many people can quickly develop a tolerance for these medications. Instead, it might be time to incorporate a sleep-promoting supplement into your routine.
Put down the bottle of Benadryl or Tylenol PM and find the natural sleepy-time supplement that works best for you. Melatonin, a hormone released by the brain when darkness sets in, sends out a signal to your body that it’s time to start winding down. Taking a melatonin supplement before bed can have a positive impact on sleep quality, however it’s important to note that it shouldn’t be used on a nightly basis, as extended use can result in morning grogginess upon waking.
Another supplement that contributes to better sleep is magnesium. Because many of us aren’t getting enough magnesium from our diets, we’re deficient in this key mineral that’s crucial to healthy sleep patterns. Magnesium helps boost relaxation and increase calm, improving both the quality as well as the duration of your sleep.
Don’t Obsess Over Sleep
After a list of ideas designed to help you get the best sleep of your life, it may seem counterintuitive to wrap up on this final note. But we’re serious: While all the above suggestions can help, what’s most important is that you’re not obsessing over sleep. Do away with the sleep tracker and delete the sleep app from your phone (see technology tip above). Sleep is an important indicator of health, but in a wellness culture that’s laser-focused on optimising every part of our lives, consider this your permission to let sleep be the restorative and restful relief it truly is. One night of tossing and turning might be a bummer, but stressing about it is much worse.
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