In Friday’s post, “3 Reasons Why You Should Take The Night Off,” I mentioned the importance of going to bed early. Rather than binging an entire season of Mozart in the Jungle, try turning off the television after 2-3 episodes and hitting the hay. Getting enough sleep is a key strategy to increasing your productivity in the days ahead, so set yourself up for success and embrace those 7-8 hours.
For many of us, however, the problem might not be physically going to bed. Rather, the challenge is falling asleep. Our minds race from the day’s events, and worry about what tomorrow will bring.
Does this sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself counting sheep far too late into the night?
Me too. It’s tough! But the good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to simply accept a mere 4-5 hours of sleep per night.
So what can you do? Keep reading for five simple strategies for a great night of sleep.
5 Strategies for a Great night of Sleep
Assess Your Sleep Environment
First things first, you need to assess your sleep environment. Is your bedroom conducive to a restorative night of rest? Here are a few things to consider.
Let’s start by tackling the light situation. Is your room filled with the glow of LED lights from your various electronics? Are there bright streetlights shining in through your window? Do you sleep with the television on?
If so, we may have found a significant sleep disruptor.
Research shows that sleeping in a darkened room is an important factor in a well-rested night. This is because our bodies release melatonin once it gets dark, which is a natural hormone that signals we’re tired. Believe it or not, before electricity, many people actually listened to their bodies and went to sleep when it got dark. Crazy, huh?
Admittedly, waking and sleeping with the sun is not a realistic objective today. Nevertheless, we should be aware of the negative impact artificial light has on our sleep. Because when we’re exposed to bright lights during the evening hours, our body stops producing melatonin, which impacts our quality of sleep.
Obviously, this is not an ideal situation.
So do yourself a favor. Before you get into bed, close the blinds and turn off the television. If you live in a particularly bright area, you might consider purchasing some darkening shades or a sleep mask. Because removing artificial light at bedtime is the first step toward a restorative night of sleep.
Turn down the temperature
A second major player has to do with your room’s temperature. As I mentioned in my previous post, keeping the temp somewhere between 60-67 degrees F is the sweet spot for a comfortable night of sleep. So turn down the thermostat and shimmy under the covers. You’ll be sleeping soundly in no time.
Stop that racket!
Thirdly, let’s talk about noise. I am a ridiculously light sleeper. So much so, that I sleep with a fan on, a white noise machine running, and I wear ear plugs. (I told you – it’s ridiculous).
While I’m guessing very few of you need such an extreme elimination of noise, I do recommend keeping the room quiet. Avoid loud music, television noise, or any other aural distractions. And if you are a light sleeper, try turning on a fan or noise machine. (This is the one I use) They really do work wonders.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s think about your bed. And more specifically, let’s talk about your mattress. Are there lumps or bumps? Does it sink to the center? Are your pillows too high? Do you get too hot?
The latter option was my culprit. I’m an incredibly hot sleeper, and I had a memory foam mattress. As it turns out, hot sleepers and memory foam mattresses are a bad combination. Who knew? I changed to a pillow top and it has made an incredible difference in my ability to sleep through the night.
So take note of your mattress. As contradictory as it may sound, it could be your bed that keeps you awake at night.
If you’re in the market for a new mattress, there are many different things to consider. Luckily, there is a super helpful mattress buying guide out there, which helps you discover what mattress works best for you.
Once you know what type of mattress you’re looking for, head to a couple different retailers. You’ll never find he perfect mattress if you don’t take the time to try them out!
Assess Your Quality Of Sleep
Once you have created a healthy sleep environment, the next step is assessing your quality of sleep. Because believe it or not, there are many different stages of sleep, and each one plays a different role in restoring our bodies back to health.
So as you consider your quality of sleep, ask yourself: How much sleep am I getting? Do I sleep through the night? Am I reaching all five levels of my sleep cycle?
Now you may be thinking, “how am I supposed to know if I’m getting ‘quality’ sleep…I’m sleeping!” I hear you. Luckily, there are plenty of sleep apps out there. They measure your sleep cycle, and help you track the quality of your sleep over an extended period of time. So easy!
Regularity Is Key
Another key component in getting a great night of sleep is maintaining a consistent routine. Our bodies thrive on regularity, and many sleep experts recommend waking up at the same time (within 30 minutes) each day. Yes, even on the weekends.
I’ve preached the benefits of routine in multiple posts, and this is no exception.
By maintaining a consistent wake time, followed by an enjoyable morning routine, you’re setting yourself up not only for a successful day, but also an easy night of sleep. Because let’s face it, as nice as it is to sleep in several hours, 9 times out of 10, you’ll have a difficult time falling asleep that night.
Much like the benefits of a consistent morning routine, a relaxing bedtime routine is also key to a great night of sleep.
The main objective of a bedtime routine is to wind down and relax. It is time to pull yourself away from the everyday distractions of computers, email, iPhones, and Facebook. And instead, gravitate yourself toward restorative, calming actives.
So rather than jumping into bed with your iPad or phone, and scrolling through the Twitter feed, try grabbing an actual book. You know, those things made of paper that don’t glow. 😉 Turn on a warm, soft light, and read for a while to quiet your mind.
(If you’re looking for more tips on establishing a bedtime routine, check out this post!)
For Those With Disrupted Sleep
Believe me, I am the first to recognize that sometimes sleep simply isn’t in the cards. Whether you’re a new parent, working an overnight job, or unable to sleep due to stress and anxiety, there are times in our lives when the odds of a good night’s sleep are stacked against us.
It’s in situations like this that the power nap comes in. I’ve recently discovered some research on the impact of power naps combined with a bit of caffeine. Coffee naps, if you will.
This sounds super counterintuitive, I know. But here’s the idea. If you find yourself struggling to push through the day, drink a cup of caffeinated coffee or tea. Immediately after you finish the cup, take a cat nap for about 20 minutes.
Why 20 minutes? Because that’s how long it takes for the caffeine to hit your system. The theory is when you wake up, you avoid the groggy “I just woke up from a nap” feeling thanks to the caffeine boost.
Believe it or not, results have shown that reaction times of those who take caffeine naps, drastically improved. Cool, huh?
If you’re not a big napper, there are alternative options as well. Research has shown that both magnesium and vitamin D help stimulate a deeper sleep. What’s more, these are nutrients that you can easily incorporate as a part of your balanced diet. (Of course, you can also take them as a supplement if that’s easier for you). Additionally, early research suggests that prebiotics, not to be confused with probiotics, may also help those who struggle with sleep. Who knew?
So wherever you are in your quest for more sleep, I challenge you to a sleep assessment.
Take stock of your bedroom environment, and eliminate excess light, noise, and heat. Discover your perfect mattress, and start tracking your quality of sleep. Maintain regularity in your sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time. And on the days that 7 hours of sleep is simply not in the cards, try a quick cat nap and power through the rest of your afternoon like a champ.
Looking for more easy strategies to get a great night of sleep? How about 20? Click here for 20 easy tips to implement today!
Have you done a sleep assessment before? What are your tricks for achieving a restorative night of sleep? Have you ever tried a coffee nap? I’d love to know – let me know below!