I’ve written a lot about my struggle with insomnia, and I’ve deemed my 30s the decade where I squash it for good. With the help of the National Sleep Foundation, I’m proud to give you an update with some vast improvements!
Over the last month I’ve been taking their #GoodNights challenge which involves following a series of 10 sleeping tips for 30 days. Even though I knew a lot of them already, it was a great reminder and forced me to actually practice what I preach. Plus I’ve learned a few new things.
When you read the tips, you might think they seem obvious but when you really think about it, you probably aren’t practicing the majority of them. You can read more about how the challenge went for me at sleep.org.
10 tips for a good night’s sleep:
1. Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night. Even though I had heard this before, I was staying up late on weekends to watch movies with my husband or going out to late dinners when we travel. Trying to stick to the same schedule made a big difference on Monday mornings.
2. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety. These things can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep, or remain asleep. My bedtime ritual involves a shower (I sleep better if I feel clean), followed by a few yoga poses, and then reading in bed (an actual book, not on an electronic reader). When I don’t do my ritual, it takes me much longer to fall asleep.
3. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help. This one has never been a problem for me as I can’t nap but I have a lot of friends who could use this tip!
4. Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep. I still struggle to make this happen every day but I try to stick to 4 times/week.
5. Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noiseâ€ machines, and fans.
6. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you. See my bedroom design here. My husband and I invested in a TempurPedic mattress a few years ago and that was a game-changer for us.
7. Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check. I use an amber lightbulb at night and turn off all other lights in my room while I’m reading before bed. It really calms me down!
8. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
9. Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night. This tip has, hands down, made the biggest difference in my sleep. About 6 years ago I got this piece of advice and whenever I don’t follow it, my night is a disaster.
10. If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers, and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep (and sex!) to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.
Some of the products that I use help me sleep:
Silk Pillowcase (To avoid sleep wrinkles and bed head)
Yoga Toes (I wear them while reading before bed)
I challenge you to take the sleep challenge and let me know how it goes. It might give you more energy during the day, relieve some of your stress, or it could completely change your life. I look forward to hearing your results!
Thank you to the National Sleep Foundation for sponsoring this post.