Thanks to the wonders of technology, we’re all pretty much living in a 24/7 world. You can shop online at midnight, chat up someone from the other side of the globe in the wee hours of the morning, and even pull an all-nighter live-streaming your favorite K-drama (hey, we’ve all done it).
While all those things are exciting and can be a great way to relieve the stress from a long day, they won’t do your health any favors. Let’s face it: sleep deprivation for any reason is really bad for the body. Prolonged insufficient sleep affects the brain’s ability to make rational decisions and can make your emotions go haywire. Under extreme circumstances, it can also be deadly.
So, what can you do to ensure sufficient, restful slumber every night, even when you’re too keyed-up or anxious about things? It all starts with cultivating small but significant changes in your daily routine:
1. Set a sleeping schedule and stick to it.
If you pick just one thing to carry out from this list, best make it this one.
Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day (yes, even on weekends) stabilizes your body’s internal clock and optimizes the quality of your sleep. Pick a bedtime when you normally feel tired so that you don’t fret about in bed. If you’re able to wake up naturally, that is, without an alarm clock, that usually means you’ve gotten enough sleep. If not, strive for an earlier bedtime.
2. Stay active during the day.
People who exercise regularly tend to feel more energetic during the day and are able to get better sleep at night.
However, do note that the key words here are “during the day.” Vigorous exercises can increase your adrenaline levels, so it wouldn’t be a good idea to engage in them a few hours before bedtime.
Also, you don’t have to do CrossFit or go boxing to benefit from daytime exercise. Something as simple as taking a walk for ten minutes is already highly beneficial, so long as you do it consistently. Whatever you do, try to make sure you aren’t sedentary for more than an hour at a time: get up, stretch, walk to and from the bathroom, etc.
3. Get enough sunlight.
Natural light keeps your internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake schedule because it tells your body that it’s time to wake up and its absence indicates the need for slumber.
Upon waking, draw your curtains or blinds and let the morning light fill the room. You can also step out of your office at regular intervals to get a “sunlight break,” especially if you work in a low-light environment all day. (Don’t forget to put on sunblock.)
4. Cultivate a sleep-friendly environment in the bedroom.
In other words, keep your laptop and work stuff elsewhere.
You want your mind to associate your bedroom with nothing but peaceful and restful sleep (and well, one other thing that you can do in there that I can’t mention in a family-friendly blog). You’re bound to spend a third of your life in bed anyway, so splurging on quality mattresses, pillows, and sheets is actually an investment.
Blackout curtains or blinds that keep the light out at night are also a great idea, as are diffusers that give off a calming, relaxing scent like lavender or peppermint. If you live in an area that gets noisy at night (road/air traffic, barking dogs, etc.), you may want to pick up a white noise machine to help tone things down.
5. Cut down on your caffeine and nicotine intake.
Caffeine is excellent at perking you up, sure, but it also stays in your system for up to 8 hours, thus getting in the way of your sleep, ditto with nicotine.
You may want to lay off tea, coffee, or soda after 2 PM to make sure that this stimulant doesn’t keep you from falling asleep properly. Do away with cigarettes, as smoking exacerbates breathing disorders like sleep apnea.
6. Develop a relaxing, pre-bedtime ritual.
Residual stress or tension can make it very difficult for anyone to unwind and relax, so it helps to indulge in some relaxation methods a couple of hours before bedtime.
These include nice, warm baths, easy stretches, listening to soft music, or even just having a good conversation with a loved one or significant other before going to sleep.
7. Ease up on heavy dinners and midnight snacks.
Early, light dinners are ideal since they won’t cause indigestion. Should you get hungry in the evening, you can nibble on light snacks like crackers and cheese so that you don’t end up with an upset stomach keeping you up.
As a bonus, this step also helps you lose weight since the body’s metabolism tends to slow down at night.
As with a lot of things, attaining good sleep is largely down to possessing the right set of habits. Doing all the recommended steps above won’t guarantee overnight success (no pun intended), but it’ll certainly help in achieving the sort of restful slumber you probably haven’t experienced since you were little (and worry-free, adulting can really suck, after all).