How to Sleep Better in 6 Easy Steps
By Cynthia Brace
Is your finger firmly locked on the snooze button in the morning? Do you need a hit of caffeine in the morning just to keep your eyes open?
Are you restless when you’re sleeping, tossing and turning leaving you feeling grumpy, rundown, tired in the morning and needing a nap by three pm.?
You’re not alone. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), sleep disorders are so pervasive in the United States that they now constitute a public health epidemic.
Why Does Sleep Matter So Much?
Lack of sleep is linked with chronic diseases and conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression and obesity.
It also leaves you feeling grumpy, foggy-brained and inefficient. You need your 7 to 9 hours of sleep to look and feel great.
When we sleep our body goes through stages of growth and repair. No, you’re not going to grow in height (well, unless you’re a teenager). During sleep, your growth hormone will be released which helps with muscle recovery, bone development, metabolism and repairing your body.
It also helps your mind sort, process and store information from the day. Which gives your brain a break and preps you for new experiences.
Sleep helps you lose and maintain your weight.
When you don’t get enough sleep your body is going to be asking for energy all day. Hello, extra-large latte and cravings for ALL of the high processed carb foods.
Exercise for most people is a challenge to start. Add in being tired from lack of sleep and your 30-minute walk goes right out the window.
Getting enough sleep is just as important to your health and well-being as what you eat (diet), exercise and reducing stress.
Sleep doesn’t have to be an elusive dream (pun intended). Check out these 6 easy steps to get you started.
1 ~ Plan For It
As with anything in life if we don’t make a plan to do something it likely won’t get done. Planning a sleep routine can set you up to have a great night’s sleep.
The first thing you need to do is plan when you want to go to sleep. Most people don’t give this much thought and end up binge-watching their favourite show late into the night.
So, if you need to get up by 6 and want 8 hours of sleep, plan to be in bed by 10. If you’re laughing at that thinking “no way I’m in bed by 10” keep reading.
Once you pick a time, stick to it! Including the weekends, with a ‘sleep in’ time of no more than an hour. This way your body gets used to the natural circadian rhythm of when it’s asleep and awake.
My body is so used to this I haven’t used an alarm in over 15 years. It’s blissfully great not to have to wake up to an alarm.
Once you’ve picked a time that ensures you get your 8 hours of oh-so-nice sleep now you need to set up your sleep routine.
Check out the example sleep routing below.
- Cut out caffeine after 3 pm (or skip it altogether)
- 5 – 8 pm Exercise. Be sure to finish at least 2 hours before you hit the hay or you may be too energized.
- 7- 9 pm Prep for your tomorrow (lunch, anything that needs to leave the house with you, do a brain dump of to-do’s) so it’s not on your mind all night.
- 8 – 9 pm limit technology, that can keep your brain wired. Yes, that means your phone/tablet.
- 8 – 9 pm start dimming the lights to help you transition to “sleep time” and help your body’s natural production of melatonin (a hormone that promotes sleep)
- 9:30 -10 pm Wind down (reading, light stretching, relaxing music, meditate)
- 10 pm in bed.
- 6 am alarm (if you need it). Use one that doesn’t jolt you out of bed immediately triggering your stress response. Try one with sounds that gradually brings you out of sleep.
- Don’t hit the snooze button! Take a few minutes to wake up and think positive thoughts about your day. Then open the blinds or turn on the lights. This helps your body know it’s time to get up and is a part of the natural circadian rhythm.
If your someone who wants to get into the habit of going to bed earlier, try going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you get to the time you want.
2 ~ Don’t Stuff Yourself
When you’re sleeping your body is doing a whole bunch of stuff from getting rid of waste, to repairing your body’s cells.
When you eat too much dinner and go to bed with an overfull stomach your body now has to focus on digesting your food. Which can take away from other important things it’s supposed to be doing.
Besides the fact that you probably won’t feel great lying down with all that food in your stomach it disrupts your sleep and sets you up for a grumpy tomorrow.
On the flip side don’t go to bed hungry either. If your stomach is grumbling an hour before you go to bed have a light snack.
Nope, that doesn’t mean half a bag of potato chips. An apple with some almond butter would do the trick. That way you’re not distracted by being hungry as you try and fall asleep and so that your blood sugar stays stable.
3 ~ Skip The Added Sugars
These are the sugars that are added during the processing of food.
I’ve run a sugar-free challenge a number of times and time and again I hear “I can’t believe after 3 days I’m sleeping SO much better!”
Besides excess added sugars being damaging to your body it messes with your sleep. You don’t sleep as deeply and you’re more restless. It can give you energy when you’re trying to wind down and uses magnesium in your body that’s needed for sleep.
4 ~ Move Your Body
Not only does moving your body help maintain your weight, but exercise also boosts the effect of natural sleep hormones like melatonin.
No, it doesn’t mean you need to go to the gym (unless you like that kind of thing). Think walking, doing squats by your desk (hey, 10 of those puppies 5 times a day add up), online (or in-person) belly dancing class (OMG SO much fun).
Moving your body doesn’t always have to be so structured. Sure, resistance training is one of the top ways to prevent osteoporosis but you don’t need to do it every day.
Moving a minimum of 4 times a week is not only going to help you sleep better, but it’s also a natural mood enhancer. So, a happier you.
The key is to MOVE your body.
Keep this one earlier in the day as intense activity raises your temperature, energizes you and can wake you up.
MY RECOMMENDATION FOR YOU | 6 Ways To Exercise Without Feeling Like You Are
5 ~ Make Your Bedroom About Sleep (and Sexy Times) Only
Not for watching TV, working or anything else. When you make your bedroom about those things your mind associates that room with being awake and stress from work.
When you make your room about sleep your body and brain know when it lies down it’s time for sleep.
The darker the better (think blackout blinds and curtains), covering bright clocks (who cares what time it is, your alarm knows).
Make it comfortable (mattress, pillows) and a place of relaxation.
If you lie in bed and all you see are things to do (like laundry), things that stress you, or clutter, then it’s time for a change.
6 ~ Leave Your Racing Thoughts at the Door of Your Bedroom.
One of the hardest things can be to let go. Let go of your racing thoughts, worries, fears enough to fall asleep. Your world won’t fall apart if you decide to put your worries and fears down while you sleep. You can mentally decide to pick them up again in the morning if you want to.
If this sounds like you try a sleep meditation that helps you let go so you’re able to have a more restful sleep.
Having a great night’s sleep comes down to planning and actually doing what you planned.
Once you start your sleep routine and stick to it, you might just be just like my husband. When I first met him, he’d toss and turn and be awake more than he was asleep at night (crazy amounts of caffeine and sugar were his challenge). Now. Well, let’s just say he can be asleep in 35 seconds or less and sleep right through the night.
Yes, he thanks me all the time.
Still Having A Challenge?
There are several health challenges that can interrupt your sleep. Four of the most common are sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), restless leg syndrome or a hormonal imbalance.
These can lead to snoring, burring in your stomach, chest or throat, moving your legs or consistently waking up in the middle of the night.
If any of those are keeping you up then get in touch with your health care provider.