By: Madeleine Ortiz
Having a meaningful morning often means a happier, healthier day- and according to experts, one of the best ways to ensure you’re starting your day on the right foot is to get a good night’s sleep.
If you’re reading this and thinking, getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done, you’re not alone. Busy schedules, stress and sleeping disorders are just a few of the reasons Dr. Michael Lyon says that the majority of people are not getting enough sleep. And the lack of sleep, Dr. Lyon continues, is contributing to health problems like chronic fatigue, weight gain and anxiety among other things. Even though it might seem difficult at first, Dr. Lyon and other experts agree that there are ways to improve sleep quantity and quality – and we’ve compiled some of their best tips to do just that in this article.
Make sure you’re getting enough.
Sleep is important, and Dr. Lyon says most of us just aren’t getting enough. Sleep, he says, contributes not only to productivity, but also longevity and it should be a top priority. Decide what tasks can wait so that you can get the hours you need (usually between 7-9 for the average adult). Don’t feel guilty about saying no to events and other things if you have to sacrifice sleep to make them happen. You and everyone around you will feel better if your sleep comes first.
Go to bed at the same time each night.
There’s a reason your parents gave you a bedtime. Dr. Lyon says that a consistent bedtime leads to more consistent sleep. At first, going to bed when there are still chores to be done or when you’re not particularly tired might seem strange, but according to Dr. Mariana Mercado Garcia, the more you do it, the more of a habit it will become. As your body gets used to the routine, your sleep cycle will start to adjust- which means less time counting sheep and an easier time falling asleep.
Wake up at the same time every morning.
When you don’t have work or another obligation that requires you to be up at a certain time, it can be super tempting to stay snuggled up under the covers. However, Dr. Mercado Garcia recommends resisting the urge to sleep in late. Just like going to bed at the same time every night, waking up at the same time every morning helps your sleep cycle get into a routine. The consistent wake up time also keeps you honest about bedtime – you’re less likely to stay up late if you woke up early. Trust that the initial weeks of discomfort will be worth the pay off in the long run, and you’ll be waking up without an alarm clock in no time.
Turn off your screens.
Dr. Mercado Garcia tells us that when it comes to sleep, screens are the enemy. She recommends “going dark” at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime and leaving TVs, tablets and even phones outside the bedroom altogether. The light from the screen can mess with our sleep cycle, Dr. Mercado Garcia informs us, so although it might be difficult at first, giving up night time screen time is one of the best things you can do for your sleep and overall health.
Beware of caffeine.
Caffeine can affect everyone differently, but experts agree it’s best to stop consuming caffeine at least 4 hours before bedtime. Dr. Lyon even says some people may have to stop drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages as soon as 7-8 hours before bedtime. Be mindful of when you consume it and how it affects you – and then plan accordingly. Your sleep is important enough to skip the afternoon latte (or make it decaf.)
Get a sleep routine.
Whether you realize it or not, you probably have a morning routine…. Wake up, brush teeth, turn on the coffee pot. This routine helps signal your brain and your body that it’s time to get the day going. Dr. Lyon says we can help our body the same way in the evening by creating a night time routine. He suggests having a couple of tasks that you do in the same order, every night, 10-20 minutes before you’re ready to go to bed. Perhaps it’s washing your face and then writing in your journal or taking an evening vitamin and then completing a couple rows of your knitting- you can choose whatever works for you. As you perform these tasks consistently, your brain and body will eventually learn that these tasks mean bedtime, helping you to fall asleep more quickly and peacefully.
Set up your environment for success.
You wouldn’t practice your chorus solo in a library or go to the gym in your highest heels. Our environment and the tools we use in them make an important difference, and the same is true for our sleep. Dr. Mercado Garcia recommends setting up your bedroom in a way that feels calm and peaceful. Put away clutter, buy sheets that aren’t itchy and rest your head on a pillow that feels good for your neck. The more serene you make your sleeping environment, the more you’ll enjoy tucking in at night. .
Talk to your doctor.
If you’ve tried all these tips and you’re still having trouble falling and/or staying asleep- talk to your doctor. Dr. Lyon and Dr. Mercado Garcia agree that sometimes “do it yourself” strategies just aren’t enough. Insomnia and sleep apnea are just two of a variety of more serious sleep conditions that require medical attention. Your doctor can recommend more tips, medications or a specialist that can help.