Most of us can agree that sleep is good for us. We know how great it feels to wake up refreshed after a solid night’s sleep, and we also know how painful it is to only get a couple of hours.
So why is sleep so good for us? Research shows that sleep affects our physical and mental well-being, and plays a role in memory and decision making, learning, immune function, hormone regulation, and metabolism. Even if we know that sleep is important to us, many of us struggle to actually get some good rest. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to help your body get the sleep it needs.
1. Avoid Coffee (At Least) Six Hours Before Bedtime
Many of us drink coffee to wake up in the morning, but watching your caffeine intake right before bed is important for getting good sleep. Coffee has a very long half-life (around 6 hours), according to the National Sleep Foundation, so make sure to time your last cup with your bedtime! You should also be aware of other beverages such as sodas, tea, and even decaf coffee, which still contains a small amount of caffeine.
2. Curb Late-Night Snacking
As much as we all love late-night snacks, they can really impact the quality of your sleep. Eating before bed, especially sugars and refined grains, can raise your blood sugar levels and affect your hormone regulation. This will not only make it harder to fall asleep, but may also cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. If you find you really need a snack, try opting for something high in protein and low in sugar.
3. Keep Your Lights In Check
Light can give our bodies the signal that it is either time to rest or time to be active, so having a bright room before bed can alter melatonin production (the hormone that helps us sleep). With suppressed melatonin production, it’s harder to both fall and stay asleep. So instead of keeping your room brightly lit, help your body get ready to sleep by using lights with low-wattage light bulbs as it gets later into the evening. Keep in mind that light from technology makes an impact, too. While it may be tempting to check your phone or watch a couple of episodes of Netflix in bed, keeping your brain stimulated can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Create an electronic sundown by turning off electronics as you start to prepare for bed.
4. Set a Sleep Schedule
Although life doesn’t always allow us to keep a set schedule, getting up and going to bed around the same time each night helps regulate your body’s internal clock. It may take some time to get on a schedule that works for you, so don’t think you suddenly have to start going to bed at 9:00 p.m. daily.
5. Make Your Bed a Sleep-Only Space
If you find that you have trouble winding down in bed, you can try reserving your bed just for sleeping. If you associate your bed with other activities—eating, homework, or watching TV—it may be harder to get yourself into sleep mode when you actually want to go to bed.
6. Come Up With a Bedtime Ritual
Even if you’re physically exhausted, your mind may still keep you up late. In addition to avoiding electronics that stimulate your brain right before bed, try adding an activity that you find relaxing and create a bedtime ritual. A couple of restorative yoga poses, a short meditation, putting on some calming music, or taking a warm bath will help prepare your body and mind for some proper rest.
How is your sleep? Do you have any go-to sleep rituals? Tell us what works for you!
ILLUSTRATION BY MOCHI ILLUSTRATOR UBIN LI
Last modified: September 17, 2020