I know I’ve written about the benefits of sleep before, but I’m doing it again because I am a firm, firm believer in sleep. As a matter of fact, it’s one of my favorite things. I love the idea that I can climb into my cozy bed, close my eyes and after eight hours I can start over again. I am the napper of my family and was always the one to sleep in the latest. It certainly helps that I love my bedroom and I love my bed, but some days, going to bed is my favorite part of the day.
The science supports my love of sleep and I know that most people agree that sleep is important, so why do so many Americans (35%!) report they don’t get enough sleep? The study linked above by the CDC found some very interesting things in our relationships with sleep. Of course what most people tend to ignore is the socioeconomic challenges some people face that can interfere with their sleep (shift work, going to bed hungry, sleeping in the same room as children, etc.). While I would love to dive into this thought more, this post is about how to improve your sleep, and many of the socioeconomic challenges cannot be changed in a single post.
There are serious risks to not getting enough sleep. Children who don’t get enough sleep are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and adults can face challenges with depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more. But while we know getting enough sleep is an important aspect of our health we still don’t make it a priority.
There are many ways we can improve our sleep quality as well as quantity. It’s always a good idea to keep your bedroom a sanctuary; a place for sleep. I keep my laptop tucked away in my armoire, where it’s easily accessible if I’m having a lazy morning or working from home when I’m sick, but it’s usually out of sight, and out of mind. I also keep my room light and airy, which personally brings me a feeling of peace. You need to find what works best for you and your needs.
Another big part of the problem is technology. I fully admit to often falling asleep to Netflix, but I know that I sleep better when I read before bed, or listen to my sleep podcast. At night when I wake up, I try to avoid reaching for my phone to check the time and/or scroll through social media. There are plenty of technology-based sources out there to help you sleep, such as the Sleep With Me podcast I use. There are apps to track your sleep based on your movements throughout the night and even apps to play relaxing sleep music or sounds. Overall, it’s going to be best for you to put your phone down at least 20 minutes before bed.
Ideally you should be aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep nightly. Set yourself a bedtime that would put you at the high end of that range, then start your bedtime routine an hour before that. For example, if your alarm goes off at 7am you should set your “bedtime” to be 10pm. That means that at 9pm your should be starting your bedtime routine, including brushing your teeth, washing your face and shutting down the house for the night. You can add in a stretching or meditation routine, a cup of herbal tea, reading time and even a prayer or spiritual routine. By the time you climb into bed your body should be relaxed and you should be preparing for sleep. Maybe you’re not quite tired yet, so you keep reading and that’s ok. Remember you already put yourself at the high end of your sleep range, so if it takes a couple of hours to fall asleep you’re still ok!
What’s your biggest struggle with getting enough sleep? Can you tell when you’ve been sleeping well and when you haven’t? Do you have any great tricks, apps or podcasts to share? Let us know!