I've never been a good sleeper. Sleep has always been one of those things that has fallen low on my priority list. It's not that I don't think sleep is important or beneficial. It's just that there are so many other things you can be doing in the time that you are sleeping.
It's only been within the past few months that I have realized and harnessed the power of a good night's sleep. I wear a Fitbit and am able to see my sleep patterns each night. Those patterns were not impressive by any measure. I was lucky if I were getting 5 hours of sleep most nights. It wasn't until I actually experienced a good night's sleep (about 8 hours with zero wake ups and little restlessness) that I became determined to make that happen most nights of the week.
Here are the steps I've taken to get a better night's sleep:
I wake up at the same time everyday, so why wouldn't I go to bed at the same time every night? It seems like a simple enough rule to follow, but it's difficult to do in reality. I generally pay attention to my body. Previously, if I felt tired, I would sleep. But recently, I am much more mindful about when I sleep. I try not to nap because I know it will ultimately affect my sleep that night. What I have been doing is at least getting into bed each night at the same time (10:30 pm is my goal), and attempting to wind down with the end goal of being asleep by 11:00.
The light on our phones can have a negative effect on circadian rhythms, which regulate how our bodies respond to a 24 hour cycle. When exposed to the light on your phone, your body becomes confused and thinks it is daytime. I set my morning alarm on Sunday night and set it to recur each weekday morning. This way I don't have to set it each night, and I can easily put my phone to the side until morning.
My biggest problem with sleep is falling into it. I am usually over-stimulated at the day's end. My mind is on overdrive and the surrounding light and sounds don't help. When a friend told me that a sleep mask was instrumental in helping her to fall asleep within 10 minutes of getting into bed, I bought one immediately. I was skeptical at first since complete darkness freaks me out. But I adjusted to the total lack of light after a few nights of wearing the mask, and as it turns out, I don't need a hint of light to fall asleep. In fact, the mask has been a game-changer.
Taking a warm bath or shower has been proven to make you more sleepy in the evening. For an extra boost, add lavender to your bath. I swear by Dr. Teal's Epsom Salts in all my bath, but in the evening, I add a Dr. Teal's lavender bath bomb. You can also add a few drops of lavender essential oil.
One of my favorite ways to relax, unwind, and prepare for sleep is to meditate. Be warned: meditation takes practice. Whether you take a meditation class or enlist the help of an app, you'll need some sort of guidance to get started. I am partial to the app Headspace. Through a series of daily guided meditations, Headspace will have you dropping from your thinking mind with little effort in no time.
Lavender is proven to aid in sleep and reduce stress and anxiety. So start spritzing! I like to spray my pillow before I go to sleep, and after I've finished with my nightly skin routine, I spray a few spritzes of this facial spray on before hopping into bed. Here are few others that I like:
I've heard enough strange stories about prescription sleep aids to know that I don't want to take one. When all of my aforementioned methods fail, I turn to Melatonin to lull me into a restful slumber. Melatonin is the hormone that in produced in a small gland in the brain and helps control your sleep and wake cycles. Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours. But as we age, melatonin production decreases.
If you don't prefer to take a supplement, try an herbal tea at bedtime. I like Yogi's Kava tea for relaxing me. It's like Xanax in tea form...not even kidding. It envelopes you in relaxation without compromising your mental capacities, and it's non-addicting.
What do you do to ensure you get a full night's sleep?
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