By Kay Pascale
There’s one thing that most of us constantly lack: sleep. Whether you’re staying up at night worrying about the next day’s to-do list or you find yourself working into the early morning, sleep seems to elude most of the population.
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If you find yourself in need of more sleep, or are looking for ways to get a better night’s sleep, here are a few tips to help you rest peacefully.
1. Discover Your Body’s Natural Cycle and Stay in Sync
Are you a night owl or an early bird? No matter which category you fall into, you still need at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you go to sleep late, your circadian rhythm might be different from somebody who falls asleep early. The key is to discover what your natural sleep schedule is and stick to it. Even if that means you’re simply going to sleep an hour earlier than usual.
2. Stay Away From Light While Sleeping
Did you know that melatonin—your body’s natural sleep hormone—is reliant on the amount of light surrounding you? When it gets dark outside, your body starts to secrete more melatonin, making you want to go to sleep. The more light that surrounds you, the more awake you feel. When you try to go to sleep with a light on or check your phone late at night, your body’s melatonin levels start to skew.
To combat this, make sure you have all the lights turned off before you lay your head down at night. If you work a graveyard shift, consider purchasing black-out curtains to block light. On the flip side, make sure that you’re exposing yourself to as much light as possible when you’re awake. Try and have your morning coffee outside or eat your breakfast near a window that has light shining through it.
3. Improve Your Sleep Surroundings
Along with ensuring there’s no light in your room when you’re asleep, there are other factors to consider when improving your sleep environment. According to House Method, a room temperature set at 68 degrees is ideal. Remove all clutter from the space, and regulate noise levels in the room with a white noise machine. This will create a peaceful sleep environment that allows you to get the rest you need.
4. Get Plenty of Exercise
Your body needs exercise to be able to sleep well at night. Being sedentary all day long and then trying to go to sleep when you haven’t expelled enough energy can prove to be difficult. If you have a desk job, try to stand at least once every hour. Take a brisk walk during your lunch break, work at a standing desk, or take a quick lap around the office.
If you don’t get your stand time in at work, try to exercise for 30 minutes when you get home. Keep in mind that working out boosts your metabolism, increases your body temperature, and stimulates your cortisol levels. All of these factors combine to make you more alert and awake. Because of this, time your workouts at least three hours before you go to sleep, otherwise, you may find yourself tossing and turning in bed.
5. Monitor Your Diet
Like everything else in your life, your diet can affect how well you sleep at night. Caffeine and alcohol are some of the worst offenders. The last thing you want to do before you go to sleep is drink coffee. While coffee can give you an energy boost, alcohol affects melatonin in your body. So, while you may feel drowsy right after you have a drink, you will more than likely find yourself waking up in the middle of the night and have trouble going back to sleep.
Foods that are high in carbs and sugar will also keep you from being able to sleep and can pull you out of the most restorative stages of sleep. Try to have those meals high in refined sugar and carbs earlier in the day.
6. Clear Your Head Before Bedtime
Plan to wind down when it gets close to bedtime. Chronic worrying and stress related to hitting work or personal goals will keep you up at night. Try to mitigate rising stress levels by performing a series of calming techniques right before bed. You can try deep breathing, meditation, or muscle relaxation.
7. How to Get Back to Sleep
There will always be times when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep. When that happens, there are ways to teach your body to go back to sleep. This could include breathing techniques, trying to make relaxation a top priority, and or a quiet and non-stimulating activity like reading a book. Whatever you choose, keep light levels low and try to allow your body to not become too awake or alert.
Kay Pascale is a writer from Durham, NC. When she’s not writing about the latest wellness trends, she enjoys traveling, trying out the local food scene, and going on long walks with her dog.