Recent studies have shown that inadequate sleep habits can be just as harmful as smoking or not exercising. Surprising, right? Turns out, sleep time is not wasted time. Instead, it is a critical factor for physical and emotional health and overall well-being. Here’s how to get more.
Begin at the beginning
Using your regular wake up time as a guide, count eight hours back and plan to be in bed by that time. Bonus points for adding an extra hour for a gentle wind-down practice. For example, if you need to be up by seven, you should plan to be in bed by 11 – 12 at the very latest. Stick to the plan most of the time (even on your off days).
Busy days can make for restless nights. You can improve your sleep schedule by developing a wind-down practice that signals “time to rest.” You might practice some gentle stretching or yoga. Other ideas include reading, enjoying a cup of tea, meditation or breathwork. Choose activities that invite a sense of calm or letting go of the day. As the saying goes, what fires together, wires together. In time, you will associate the wind-down routine with sleep time and may find that you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
Avoid sleep disruptors close to bedtime
Many common evening activities can interrupt sleep schedules. Skip activities that are stressful or activating (such as the news). The same with food and drink. Avoid eating too late or drinking alcohol near bedtime as both can interfere with restful sleep. Use your bedroom for sleep and sex only. Remember, what fires together, wires together. You want your brain to associate the bed and room with sleep.
Set the right tone
Be sure your room is appropriately dark and free of noise. Nighttime temps should be cool, in the range of 60 and 67 degrees. Some people find that rubbing their feet with warm oil before bedtime can also promote restful sleep. Sesame oil and lavender is a nice combination – wear socks to protect your sheets.
Get regular exercise
Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Doing so has many benefits including stress management, better physical health, and more restful sleep.
To maintain a consistent sleep schedule, change the way you think about sleep. It is necessary and must be prioritized. In fact, poor health outcomes, including Alzheimer’s disease are increasingly associated with inadequate sleep. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep consistently. If your schedule does not allow this, it is time to set better boundaries and say no to make more room for sleep.