Did you know that sleep is just as important as eating right and exercising? I had no idea how important it was during my college years. I’d frequently pull all-nighters to study or write papers, then catnap and throwback Diet Mountain Dews the next day to stay awake. (I had read they had the most caffeine). It’s the college way, right? Looking back now, I don’t know how I did it. I love sleep and the thought of pulling an all-nighter now sounds like my worst nightmare.
Why Sleep is SO Important
Sleep is vital. And I’m not talking about sporadic, hour-long naps. I’m talking about a good night’s sleep where your body is resting and resetting.
While you sleep, your body is at work cleaning up everything that’s happened throughout your day. So many of your body’s systems are affected by sleep and when we lack it, we’re boosting our risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, weight gain, a weaker immune system, anxiety etc.! All things we DON’T want.
Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep, but more if we’re sick or are trying to catch up from previous nights. It can be hard to incorporate that much sleep, especially if you’re in school full-time with a job, have a demanding schedule, or insomnia, etc. Check out these do’s and don’ts to preparing for, and actually getting, some good rest:
Plan Your Day
Make a schedule for your day and set a bedtime. When setting your bedtime, remember that you want 7-8 hours of sleep. When you have everything that needs to be done laid out in front of you, and set aside time to accomplish each task, you can plan to go to bed at the realistic time you set and feel relaxed about it.
Make Your Bedroom Inviting
Is your bedroom a hot mess? Prepare for a good night’s sleep by keeping your bedroom clean and organized. Hang up clothes, make your bed and remove clutter to create a more soothing atmosphere. I love climbing into a made bed with crisp, clean sheets. It makes me feel like I’m at a hotel or something and just feels more inviting.
Diffuse Essential Oils
Diffusers have a calming effect on their own, but even more so when you add in a few drops of lavender oil. Lavender is widely known for its ability to soothe, relax, and reduce anxiety, which is perfect for nighttime. The combination of the humming diffuser and dreamy scent will have you ready for bed in no time. I’m getting sleepy just thinking about it.
Start Winding Down
Be sure to incorporate time in your schedule to wind down. It’s best if you can wind down for thirty minutes. If you say you want to be in bed by 9pm, but you’re scrambling around doing who knows what up until 9pm, you’re not in the best place to go right to sleep. Yes, your body may be tired, but if you’re not in the right mindset you’ll lay down with a mind still running. During your wind down time, maybe make a warm cup of tea, soak in the tub, or diffuse some lavender essential oil in your bedroom. 😉
One of the best ways to wind down is to read during those thirty minutes before bed. And when I say read, I don’t mean reading something from a screen. We’ve all heard that the bluish light screens display awakens our brain and puts us in ‘daytime mode,’ (even when brought to the dimmest setting).
Grab an actual book instead. (In my opinion, there really is something so calming about a paper book). Avoid anything intense or unsettling. This is supposed to be a calming experience, so don’t pick a suspenseful John Grisham novel or something! Maybe choose one that you’ve read before, but whatever you choose, let it be a good one because you’ll most likely dream about it!
Since light is one of the key factors in keeping our brain awake, block out all light in your bedroom. If you like to have a nightlight so you’re not stumbling around in the middle of the night trying to get to the bathroom, give a sleep mask a try.
Weighted blankets were created to help reduce anxiety, but even if you don’t suffer from anxiety, they are still a fantastic sleeping companion!
If you’ve never heard of them, they are blankets filled with beads that weigh 7-12% of your body weight (depending on which weight you select). They give you the sensation of being hugged and are known for providing restful sleep. And, bonus! They’re way cooler than layering several blanket or quilts on yourself (which will generally be uncomfortable and really hot).
If you don’t like the sound of silence, try a sound machine, app, or even a fan. Various apps are available to download for FREE that offer a variety of sounds ranging from ocean waves, to white noise, to melodies, to a box fan etc.
Sometimes when I’m in a quiet room, I notice every little sound which can take me from a peaceful doze, to being wide awake; that’s why I prefer to sleep with a fan on. That little hum is enough to block out the ice machine dumping or air conditioner kicking on.
Now, I’m not saying you should exercise before bed because exercise releases endorphins (which gives you a boost of energy), but what I am saying is to exercise sometime throughout the day. Do you remember as a kid, after being really active at recess or swimming all day, you’d have the best sleep EVER? It’s because you exerted tons of physical energy throughout the day leading you to sleep like a rock. As if we need another reason to exercise…it also relieves stress and pain resulting in an even better night’s sleep! So many pros to exercising!
Have Too Much Screen Time
Even though we have so many screens available to us and have access to so much information 24/7, resist the urge to be staring at a screen AT LEAST 30 minutes before bed. Remember, we want to be winding down, not stimulating our brains before bed. Aside from the blue light, watching TV or scrolling through Facebook puts us at risk of seeing something stressful that can be anxiety-inducing.
Get in ‘Sleeping Position’ Before You’re Ready for Bed
Whether it’s lying in bed before you’re ready to fully go to sleep, or just lying on the floor or couch to watch TV all evening, this habit can create a sense of restlessness once it’s lights out and you’re trying to fall asleep. Since your body has been in this position before bedtime, it is more difficult to switch gears because that position no longer feels as relaxing. To fall asleep faster and easier, sit up before bed.
Don’t Eat A Late Dinner
Even though a good nap always comes after eating, avoid eating a late dinner. Not only are you more prone to indigestion, but you’re more likely to gain weight because your metabolism slows down as you sleep. Eating dinner 3-4 hours before bed is ideal, but if you can’t do that, just eat smaller portions or a light meal!
Once again, don’t skimp on your sleep; your physical and mental health depend on it! Practice these tips and find what works for you. And remember, adults need 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Good luck!
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