Sleep may seem like it is something that comes natural to us all. And it is. At least until we hit our formative early teenage years and life starts to throw curveballs at us like late night get togethers with friends, caffeine filled mornings that soon begin to spill into after-dinner lattes and espressos, all-nighters spent studying for a big test the next day, new and exciting television shows popping up on the tube several times a year…
Not to mention later issues like relationships, kids, career, and all those other passions that keep us up all night as adults!
Considering your health and well-being, things have got to change. Fortunately, there is a way.
Form healthy sleeping habits
Here’s 5 great sleeping habits that can really help you to get past the “sheep counting stage” and into that dreamy nighttime bliss we all so look forward to every night:
1. Start your bedtime routine at the same time every night.
And go to bed at the same time every night too! Have you ever noticed that same colored squirrel or bird darting and hopping around your yard by their favorite tree every morning? Or the big fat raccoon lumbering around near your garbage can at the same time every night? Your mind and body both thrive on a predictable wake/sleep routine that they can count on.
All animals and mammals work on the same principle, whether they’re naturally awake in the morning or evening. This is how things are supposed to work. Your body has a circadian rhythm governed by its “master biological clock” which prepares it to wake up and also to go to sleep, and this system will reward you with better sleep quality when you embrace it and stop changing things up all the time.
2. Avoid all those nasty chemical stimulants that are known to interfere with sleep.
Sorry folks, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, sugar, and anything else known for its ability to wake you up and/or increase alertness is going to make it harder to go to sleep. Many caffeine junkies have uttered the phrase “this won’t keep me up” over the years. And sometimes this is true, but most times it’s just an illusion.
Same for alcohol, it might help you drift off more easily, but will soon have a stimulatory effect on the brain shortly after you drift off. Booze significantly lowers the levels of galanin in our brains. Galanin is the neurotransmitter responsible for getting us to sleep and keeping things that way. You may not wake up entirely, but you’ll definitely toss and turn and will not go into REM sleep mode as many times as you should during the night.
3. Make your sleeping space NASA Clean Air approved.
Nasty chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, toluene and ammonia are all around us in the air we breathe, particularly in confined spaces like our homes and vehicles. These chemicals can have a huge impact on our short term sleep quality, and our overall long term health in general. Worse, most of them are brought into our home by us in the cleaning chemicals, air fresheners and various fabrics we clean and decorate our homes with.
Check out this list of NASA-approved air filtering plants and make sure you have at least one, like an English Ivy or Bamboo Palm somewhere near your bed, so it cleans the air as you sleep. Never forget that air quality is synonymous with a good night’s sleep.
4. Keep your sleeping space dark and cool.
Remember that our body prefers a predictable schedule in order to get to sleep and stay that way. Our bodies have adapted to Mother Nature during our existence on this planet and our genetics have several stimuli from our surroundings plugged into it to tell us when to sleep and when to wake.
Our eyes know the sun is rising as the early morning blue-spectrum lighting it gives off penetrates our eyelids, signaling the brain it’s time to finally wake up. If you tend to leave lights on, or don’t shut your blinds at night, this process can be triggered too soon, waking you up.
Same goes for temperature. Our bodies naturally use the ebb and flow of natural heat outside to manage our internal clock. Heat rises as the sun comes up and intensifies throughout the day, before it starts to cool as the sun dips below the horizon. Temperatures below 74 degrees are considered optimal on the high end, whereas temps falling below 54 degrees can be disruptive to sleep.
5. Make a conscious effort to shut your brain off leading up to bedtime every night.
A busy, worried brain is a brain that’s not going to want to go to sleep and even if it does, you’re likely to be awoken in the middle of the night due to some errant worry (or more typically, several annoying worries) that your brain has to deal with. For you, this might be reading a book or lying back on the pillow and sorting out the day’s events in your mind.
The most important thing is to begin this process well before you actually need to drift off, to ensure you’re not kept awake half the night trying to wind down. Having a good stress management routine is key to making sure you can tune out for some shuteye for at least 7 hours every day.
Ready to apply what you’ve learned?
Now that you’re armed with this information, it’s time to apply it to your own life and start getting the restful, rejuvenating, stress reducing sleep we all deserve – starting from forming good sleeping habits.
Time spent tossing, turning and/or lying in bed awake means you’re not going to be operating at 100% the next day. You owe it to yourself to get the best night’s sleep possible each and every night!