Getting enough sleep is essential to your health and can help you succeed at school and work. Most health experts recommend 6-8 hours of sleep each night for adults, but that’s often easier said than done.
According to the CDC, more than a third of adults don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. Sleep deprivation leaves you feeling constantly tired and impairs your judgment and problem-solving skills. It can also lead to health problems over time, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression. So, how can you get yourself to bed on time and wake up feeling well-rested?
Here are five useful tips for healthier sleep habits:
1. Eat a balanced diet
You’d be surprised how much your diet can impact your sleep cycle. A healthy diet is full of fruit, veggies, whole grains and protein, which supply the energy and nutrients the brain needs to produce neurotransmitters that regulate the sleep cycle. Processed foods are often high in calories, but contain few of the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Over time, a poor diet can disrupt your body’s natural rhythm and make it more difficult for you to fall asleep.
A poor diet has also been shown to negatively impact your deep sleep, so even if you get enough hours, you might not feel totally rested.
Eating better is the simplest way to help your body rest better at night. Try to limit your sugar intake and cut back on caffeine before bed. Stay hydrated throughout the day, and stick to a regular meal schedule. You’ll sleep better and feel better as a result!
2. Exercise regularly
Unless you have an active job where you are on your feet all day, you are probably not getting much physical activity at school or work. While it’s tempting to sit down and watch TV when you get home, you’re better off doing something active, like going for a walk or a run.
Exercise helps promote sleep by releasing endorphins, which are chemicals that stimulate activity in the brain. If your body doesn’t have an opportunity to release those endorphins during the day, you might have a hard time falling asleep at night.
A quick workout can also help you decompress from a long day and free yourself of negative or stressful thoughts that keep you up at night. Your workouts don’t have to be intense, either. Start by going for a run, walking, or lifting weights a few times a week.
3. Unwind before bed
The National Sleep Foundation recommends practicing a bedtime ritual to help you unwind from the day. Your ritual could include reading or writing in a journal, or another hobby that helps you relax.
If you must do important tasks like sending emails or studying, try to do them earlier in the evening rather than later. You should put away your phone, computer or tablet at least an hour before bed, as research has shown that the blue light emitted from these screens can suppress melatonin, an important chemical that helps regulate your sleep cycle.
If you can’t put your phone away, consider using features such as Night Shift on iOS devices or Twilight mode on Android devices. These features change your screen settings to display warmer colors at night so that you are not exposing yourself to stimulating blue light. Many apps also offer a “dark mode” option for nighttime browsing.
4. Set a bedtime
Set a goal time for when you want to go to bed. Think about when you plan to wake up in the morning and aim for 6-8 hours of sleep each night. Even if you can’t fall asleep right away, get into the habit of getting into bed at a specific time and waking up at a specific time. If you continue to repeat this routine, your body will begin to understand when it is time to rest.
Some people find that white noise can help them fall asleep when they are feeling restless. Music apps like Spotify offer a variety of white noise playlists so you can fall asleep to the sound of anything you like, from thunderstorms to ocean waves.
5. Create a sleep diary
If you struggle with chronic insomnia, you might benefit from keeping a sleep diary or a sleep log. In your log, record the time you went to bed and the time you woke up. Keep track of other factors that could have helped or inhibited your sleep cycle, such as exercise, what you ate for dinner and your caffeine intake. After several weeks, you should be able to identify the parts of your routine that seem to have an impact on your sleep patterns and what the ideal daily routine looks like for you.
No matter how busy you are, planning and time management are key to getting enough sleep. Create a routine for yourself, fit in these tips in wherever you can, and eventually, you will find that you are sleeping better than ever before.