New decade = new you? If you want to improve your health and general well-being, getting better sleep is the place to start. Sleep improves your mental health & performance, interpersonal interactions, diet & exercise, and overall health & appearance. Chances are you’ve got other resolutions related to one of these, so it might be a good idea to save some focus for something that helps all of those areas and more. Here’s how to do it:
Cut Down on Screen Time
Phones, tablets, TVs, and computers emit a blue-tinted light that inhibits the production of melatonin. This chemical controls your daily sleep-awake cycles, so confusing it can upset your circadian rhythm and can lead to losing sleep.
If having your phone in the bedroom is a must, try not to use it in the hour before bed – or change the color. Having a reddish or warmer color, or using night mode can help.
Create Your Comfort Routine
Movies might tell us that “routine” = boring, but there’s a reason we find it so easy to fall into routines. When we’re doing things that are familiar, we can relax. Our threat mode is down, and we can focus our energy and thoughts on other things. When you want to wind down, establishing a set of activities that are the same every night can soothe your mind. It takes about three weeks to establish a habit, and then that routine will signal to your body that it’s time to go to bed. That will make it easier to fall asleep, and increase your chances that it will be quality sleep. What is a bed time routine? It can be getting ready for the next day, having a cup of herbal tea, taking a bath or shower, meditation, or other activities that get you into a cozy state of mind.
And yes, this is great for kids, too. Start about an hour before bed and make sure to remove anything too stimulating. For anyone, the routine should be something easy to follow, no matter where you are, so that you can keep it up on weekends and holidays too.
Watch What You Eat Before Bed
What you eat can affect how you sleep. It’s best to stop eating three hours before bed so your body isn’t working hard on digestion while you’re trying to sleep. If you’re eating late or need a snack, try to eat foods that include vitamins and minerals that promote quality sleep. Serotonin in salmon and kiwi, melatonin in cherries, tryptophan in turkey and peanut butter, or magnesium in bananas and almond. Spinach is a sleep super food! And avoid anything that might upset your stomach or give you heartburn. Alcohol seems like it’s relaxing, but actually it prevents REM, so have your nightcap early.
Set Up Your Bedroom
Making your bedroom a place you love to be in can help your body automatically associate it with sleep. Here are a few tips:
- Use dim lighting - Bright light can send signals to your brain that it’s daytime and therefore time to work and not sleep. Switch over to warm lights, like a salt lamp, during your bedtime routine.
- Get to the right temperature - You know it’s hard to sleep if you’re too warm or too cold. Ideal sleep temperature is 65 degrees F, so that you can still get under the blankets and not get too warm. In colder weather, make sure to block drafts and add extra warmth to your bed. In warm weather, get air moving and don’t skimp on the AC if you need help getting cooled down. Sleep is important!
- Check your bed - Since you use it while you’re sleeping, it’s really easy to ignore the status of your bed. If your mattress is over 8 years old, or if your bed sags or squeaks, it’s probably time for an upgrade. Poor support can cause pain that will prevent you from getting deep sleep, and make you miserable in the morning. Check to see if your slats or feet are broken or bent. If you’re not sure if you need new rails, here’s a guide.
These are simple changes to make, but will create lasting effects. You’ll wake up refreshed and ready to take on whatever the new year brings.