Most healthy adults need about eight hours of sleep each night to function at their best, but it can vary from person to person. Inadequate sleep weakens our ability to handle stress, maintain a healthy immune system, moderate our emotions, and think clearly.
Here are ten tips you can try to improve your sleep.
1. Follow a bedtime routine.
A bedtime routine helps the brain to relax and unwind before bed. An hour or two before bedtime, turn off electronic devices, dim the lights, and do something that relaxes you such as reading a book, meditating, visualization or deep breathing, listening to soft music, or taking a hot bath. It will help you to calm your mind and prepare for sleep. Try to hold off on beginning your routine until you are truly sleepy.
2. Create a calming environment.
Avoid stressful, stimulating activities that can cause the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which increases alertness. If you have too many worries, try to write them down. Journaling can be very helpful. It can help you sleep better and be more at peace; you can also quickly plan your next day. Also, keep noise down and move the TV out of the bedroom.
3. Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
Try to go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every day. If you nap during the day, make sure you nap early in the day and try to keep it short to avoid insomnia later — 30 minutes should be enough. Having a consistent sleep schedule is the best way to reinforce the body’s internal clock.
4. Avoid stimulants and alcohol.
Be careful with your consumption of stimulants such as sugar, caffeine, nicotine, as well as alcohol. Sugar will play with your blood sugar levels and may keep you awake or wake you up during the night. Caffeine is best to be stopped four-to-six hours before bedtime. Caffeine is present in coffee, tea, soda, iced tea, chocolate, energy drinks, and even in some medications. Nicotine is another stimulant that can disrupt sleep, and alcohol is a depressant that may help you to fall asleep but will also reduce your overall sleep quality.
5. Try eating a light dinner.
Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid consuming heavy, rich foods within two hours of bedtime. Spicy foods can also be a trigger for some people. Digesting food requires energy, so if you have a heavy meal at night, your body will have to work to digest the food while you’re trying to go to sleep.
6. Drink herbal tea before bed to help you relax.
Herbal tea such as chamomile, kava, and valerian root are known to relax the nervous system and reduce stress and anxiety. You may want to enjoy a hot cup of tea before bedtime as part of your routine to help you relax.
7. Use calming essential oils.
You can use calming essential oils, such as lavender, frankincense, wild orange, or even some relaxing blends of oils to help you reduce anxiety, and to help calm your spirit before bedtime. You can diffuse them, breathe them, or add a few drops in your bath or under your feet. Choose pure essential oils.
8. Get plenty of magnesium.
Magnesium is the most powerful relaxation mineral, and it’s known as the antidote to stress. It can also help to improve your sleep. Magnesium deficiency is very common so supplementing your diet with this alkaline mineral can be very helpful or you can also increase your consumption of magnesium rich foods such as dark leafy greens, fish, beans and lentils, brown rice, avocado, and nuts and seeds.
9. Make sure to get natural light during the day and limit exposure to home lighting during the nighttime.
Melatonin is a hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Spending long days inside away from natural sunlight, for example, can affect melatonin release, making it more difficult to sleep and causing exhaustion overtime. At night, avoid long hours spent in front of the TV or a computer, which suppress melatonin production. Also, make sure your bedroom is dark.
10. Exercise regularly.
Exercise increases mood, reduces stress and improves sleep. It can also significantly reduce insomnia. It’s best to exercise in the morning or afternoon, as it’s energizing. Avoid intense exercises at night, which can keep you awake. However, relaxing exercises at night such as yoga or stretching, or even sex, can promote sleep. Find an activity you like to do and stick to it!