Sleep, and rest in general, is SO important! Inadequate sleep not only makes it hard to function mentally and physically throughout your day, but sleeping is also when most of the repair in your body happens. By not prioritizing sleep – even if you do everything else right – you’ll be running a very steep uphill battle against feeling your best.
Everyone needs different amounts of sleep to function properly. Some people need 7-8 or more hours to truly be at their best, while others only need 6 hours or less of shut-eye and will be at the top of their game. Keep in mind that I’m not talking about just getting through the day with a bunch of caffeine, I mean being able to actually feel rested and energized during your day. I can function for one day on 4 or 5 hours of sleep and pretty much feel fine. But the next day, I feel awful no matter how much sleep I got that night. I personally need about 7-8 hours of sleep at night. I so wish that I could be one of those people that can get less sleep and still be bursting with energy all day, but I’m not. Anything less than 7-8 hours every night and I spend most of my day thinking how tired I feel. Listen to your body and start noticing how you feel after different amounts of sleep to get a better idea of how much sleep you need to be at your best.
It’s also important to notice how much sleep is TOO much sleep. I know for myself that unless I really need the extra shut-eye to recuperate from a particularly draining week, that anything more than 8 hours doesn’t make me feel more rested and energized. Honestly, I end up feeling more tired and lethargic because I haven’t been moving my body around.
While I am not a sleep expert, I know there are some strongly supported actions you can take to help you get a better quality of sleep:
1. Have a routine! Completing a certain set of tasks before going to bed each night can help prime your brain and your body to fall asleep easily. Going to bed and waking up within 1 hour of the same time every day can make it so much easier for your body to go to sleep quickly and wake up with ease.
2. Limit blue light from screens before bed. You’ve probably heard this before, but the blue light produced from all of our electronics signals our brains that it’s still time to be awake and alert. Melatonin is a hormone that reduces alertness and helps us fall asleep. In a natural setting, our brains produce melatonin as it starts getting darker outside in order to help us sleep. When we use our electronic devices, the blue light confuses our brains into thinking there’s more daylight, and thus inhibits melatonin production. If you just can’t stay away from your phone or the TV, try turning the brightness down to minimize the blue light it produces.
3. Lowering your core temperature will promote the release of melatonin, a chemical in your brain that helps you go to sleep, and will help signal your body that bedtime in coming. Try taking a warm bath or a hot shower to not only help you relax but cool your core temperature down as well. (I hope that’s all the justification you need to take that bubble bath every night.)
4. Sleep in a cool and dark room. Most of us tend to sleep better when we’re in a cooler environment (anyone else like to snuggle up with blankets on blankets?) so if you can, try keeping the room you sleep in a little cooler at night. Also making sure the room where you catch your zzz’s is dark can make a huge difference. When our eyes detect light, melatonin – the chemical that helps you sleep, isn’t released as much in our brains making it harder for us to go to sleep. Even small lights from a clock can be enough to give you trouble sleeping your best. Blackout curtains can make a huge difference if you’re needing to take a quick nap during the day or you sleep in past when the sun comes up.
5. Find your ultimate sleeping soundtrack – it might even be silence. Sometimes I like to have something to listen to while I fall asleep to keep my mind from wandering down a random rabbit hole in my thoughts, but I also know people who need complete silence in order to drift off. If you like a little bit of noise, there are tons of apps out there that offer white noise or other sounds easy to fall asleep too. If you are easily kept up by even the slightest of noises – try some quality earplugs!
6. Invest in your bed. Get quality, comfy bed sheets, whatever amount of pillows and blankets that make you feel cozy and relaxed, and don’t skimp on your mattress. You’ll spend around a third of your life in bed – invest in making your bed a place that makes you relax the second you lie down. Your investment doesn’t have to be a financial burden – I got the softest, most comfortable sheets off of Amazon and they were incredibly affordable!
7. Make your bed a place for sleep – not work – sleep. (I’m looking at you workaholic that takes their laptop to bed to “get a little bit more work done.” Stop it!) Make your bed a place that your mind associates with getting some shut-eye so that way the second you crawl under the covers your brain starts shutting down.
8. Avoid high stimulating workouts within a few hours of bed if you notice that those workouts tend to keep you awake for hours. I’m talking about workouts where you feel super pumped up after leaving and that take a little bit of time to chill back out from. Think loud music, high energy, and high stimulation on your brain. If you need to get your movement in closer to bedtime, try something a little more on the relaxing side – like yoga, Pilates, or going for a walk.
Try some of these tips to create a bedtime routine for yourself so you can get quality sleep in the quantity you need and let me know how it goes!