Updated: Jun 16, 2021
I don’t know about you but with the introduction of #covid19, many of our lives and routines have been disrupted. With this, I find I have waaaaay more flexibility to my schedule and more time on my hands, thanks to all social outings and gatherings outside the home being cancelled. On top of our schedules and routines going out the window, many of us are feeling significantly more stress and anxiety during this uncertain time. With all this in mind, why not use this natural break in routines to establish some newer, healthier habits (not to mention ones that help manage stress), starting with your sleep?
We know that getting enough quality sleep comes with a slew of benefits including a strengthened immune system, more balanced moods, better memory, decreased stress, improved healing, increased cognitive functioning and more. Yet so many of us are chronically sleep deprived. For many years, this was me.
Believe it or not, my motto used to be “You can sleep when you’re dead.” I drank a ton of coffee, took caffeine pills to stay up longer and be as productive as possible and generally believed that sleep was a waste of time. A WASTE OF TIME!!! Now, this sounds utterly ridiculous to me but that’s where I was and those beliefs were reflected in my sleep practices. There was always so much to do and never enough time to do it. I was driven and ambitious and high functioning but I was chronically sleep-deprived and generally, I felt like a bag of s#it.
In 2016, I was unexpectedly and abruptly laid off. I stressed about it for … maybe 20 minutes and then immediately realized the gift that I had been given. I decided I was going to use this time to reconnect with myself, focus on my wellness and develop some healthier habits that served where I wanted to go. One of the habits I was interested in changing was to shift my relationship to (and appreciation for) sleep and reverse my chronic sleep deprivation, resulting after years of sleeping 5-6 hours a night.
If having more energy, a stronger immune system, less brain fog, and waking up feeling rested is something that sounds appealing to you, you can literally start moving in that direction TONIGHT! There are many small and simple changes you can make to set yourself up for sustainable, successful slumbers that result in massive changes to your overall well-being.
How do you know if you need more sleep, you ask? Great question!
Are you consistently sleeping less than 7 hours each night?
Do you feel rested when you wake up?
Do you repeatedly hit the snooze button in an effort to steal a few more precious minutes of sleep in the morning?
Do you feel sluggish mid-day?
Are you tired all the time?
If you answered yes to any of these, chances are there’s room to improve upon your sleep. Keep reading to learn some simple tips that will improve your sleep.
1. Try to maintain a regular sleeping routine throughout the week (including weekends and holidays) which means going to bed and getting up around the same time daily. Our bodies crave consistency and patterns so this is key.
2. Avoid all screen time at least 1 hour before bed. We’re all likely familiar with the side effects of blue light and how disruptive it is to sleeping so limited device time is helpful.
3. Create an environment in your bedroom that’s conducive to sleep. For me, this means that my bedroom is dimly lit, cool in temperature and quiet. I often diffuse lavender essential oil while I sleep and I always use eye shades so that I’m in complete darkness.
4. Wear pjs to bed! This is an important visual cue for your brain and body that signals sleep is coming! Try to put your pjs on a bit before going to bed so your body knows what’s coming next.
5. Do relaxing activities before bed such as taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book (not an ebook), meditating, gentle stretching or having a cup of chamomile tea.
6. Avoid caffeine at least 8-10 hours before you plan on sleeping.
7. Try not to eat large meals or workout 3-4 hours before bed.
In terms of next steps, pick 1-2 of these things that you want to implement this week and begin tonight. As with any change, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself which is why I recommend picking a couple (at most!) to build a foundation and then adding to it only after the first ones have become habit.
Now, the above tips are helpful ideas to set you up for success before and during sleep but let’s talk about how we can actually ensure that you’re getting more sleep!
While everyone’s sleep needs are slightly different, for the most part, experts agree that humans generally need 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. If this is drastically different than what you’re currently getting, not to worry! We will get you there, one night at a time.
When thinking about your sleep routine, it’s essential to work backwards. What I mean by this is consider what time you need to get up each morning, figure out how many hours of sleep you’d like to be getting and then you’ll know what time you should aim to go to sleep.
Let’s say you need to wake up at 7am each morning. Think about what time you typically go to bed now as well as what time you’d ideally like to go to sleep; the latter is your bedtime goal. If you’re aiming to get 8 hours of sleep each night, then your bedtime goal is 11pm.
If your current regular bedtime is drastically later than 11pm, aim to go to bed 10 minutes earlier than you normally would. For example, if you currently go to bed at 1am, aim for 12:50am instead. Stick to this for a week and then add another 10 minutes on so in week 2, make it your goal to go to bed at 12:40am instead of 12:50am. Keep doing this week by week until you arrive at your goal bedtime. Once you’re at your goal bedtime, aim to stick with it as much as possible for consistency sake.
If you’re looking for more reasons to increase the quality and duration of your sleep, check this out. Improving your sleep doesn’t have to be complicated and the benefits that you’ll experience are significant. It requires an interest, a willingness and a commitment on your part but it’s definitely worth it. Sweet dreams!