Having healthy sleep habits is essential to overall good health. How and how much you sleep greatly affects your daytime actions and attitudes. You can create better sleep habits that will help you to rest well and wake up ready to start the day.
The Importance of Sleep
During sleep, “your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development,” according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Sleep also affects how well you learn, and without it, you’re at greater risk for some chronic health conditions.
Mental health is also affected by sleep. Sleep deficiency can keep you from making good decisions, handling emotions and behavior, dealing with change, and solving problems. A lack of sleep is also connected with suicide, risk-taking behavior, and depression. Teens and children may have mood swings, be angry or impulsive, feel sad, or lack motivation, and they may have trouble paying attention. They may also earn lower grades than if they had better sleep habits, according to a 1998 study in the journal Child Development.
People also experience slower reaction times, more infections, imbalanced hormones, obesity, and poorer healing and repair of heart and blood vessels when they are sleep-deprived as well.
1.) Lower the Lights Earlier.
Sleep doesn’t typically just happen “like that” when we turn the lights off. Instead, it’s a gradual process. If you turn the lights down in your home and bedroom about 30 minutes before you close your eyes, you’re telling your body it’s time to go to sleep.
2.) Avoid Blue Light.
About an hour before you go to sleep, put away the phone and computer. This gives you time to focus on a bedtime routine that will prepare you to sleep. Humans are very sensitive to the blue light that screens put out, and it can keep you awake longer.
Blue light can change your body’s circadian rhythm, which interrupts good sleep patterns, according to Scientific American. During the day, your melatonin levels are low, and they rise a few hours before you go to sleep. Light suppresses melatonin, and it can thus keep you up longer. In one 2014 study, participants who read on a light-emitting device were sleepier when they woke up and took longer to feel awake.
3.) Drink Tart Cherry Juice.
Cherry juice is a natural source of melatonin and tryptophan, which play a key role in the sleep-wake cycle. A study by Louisiana State University, cited by Prevention.com, found that study participants slept an average of 84 minutes a night longer when they drank eight ounces of Montmorency tart cherry juice for two weeks, two times a day.
Other options are to eat two kiwi fruits an hour before bed (increased sleep time by over 10 percent and cut down mid-sleep wakeful periods by 29 percent after a month, according to a Chinese Study) or to eat seaweed at dinner (helped children in a University of Oxford Study sleep an extra full hour due to its high omega-3 DHA content).
4.) Use a Sleep Diary.
Write down when you go to bed, how long it takes you to fall asleep, how many times you wake at night, how you feel in the morning, what you ate during the day (especially close to bedtime) and what kind of exercise you did that day, notes Prevention.com. This can help you determine which habits affect your sleep and how. Do this for two weeks to get the big picture of your daily habits and resulting sleep quality.
5.) A Sleep Schedule is Your Friend.
Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day. This keeps your biological clock working well so you can sleep better. Being exposed to light and dark in the same pattern every day helps, according to Prevention.com.
You can exercise late at night if you want. It used to be recommended to not do so within four hours of bedtime, but a study has recently shown that exercise will still help you sleep better than if you don’t. Gentle stretch or yoga, as opposed to cardio, at night may help you sleep better, however, notes Sleep.org.
7.) Write Down Your Worries.
If your mind races when you go to bed, make a list of your worries, and then create an action plan for the next day to deal with them. This will help you get to sleep since there is very little, if anything, you can do about the problems late at night when you should be sleeping.
8.) Create a Calming Bedtime Routine.
A bedtime routine should include a relaxing activity that helps you to clear your mind of worries and to relax your muscles. It also includes taking care of personal hygiene and getting ready for the next day (deciding what to wear, packing a lunch, etc.).
9.) Listen to Music or a Sleep Story.
Listen to an audiobook you know well or music that relaxes you before bed. You’ll drift off listening to it and won’t be distracted by plots that are too engaging or loud drum sequences in music. You can also download podcasts to help you relax or get an app for sleep stories that feature peaceful sounds and calming storylines.
10.) Sneak Up on an Earlier Bedtime.
Sleep.org recommends “bumping your bedtime 15 minutes earlier one week, and then 30 minutes earlier the next week” to help you get to bed at a good time. Set yourself a curfew for when you start to get ready for bed. This might mean setting an alarm to remind yourself, turning off your phone, shutting down the computer, and going to take a shower, for starters. Then take your shower, read a book, drink tea, do some stretches, and otherwise prepare for bed. Be consistent in going to bed and starting your routine on time every night.
11.) Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine.
It takes six hours for half of the caffeine you consume at any point to leave your system. Drink coffee right before bed, and you’re likely to experience some negative effects on your sleep. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but, it can wake you up as your body metabolizes it. So avoid those night caps before bed. Opt for a warm cup of herbal tea or a glass of milk instead.
Getting adequate and good-quality sleep is one of the best things you can do to improve your daytime functioning and to feel healthy overall. If you need more ideas, talk with your doctor about supplements or medicines you’re taking that could be interfering with your sleep. You may also have a medical condition like restless legs or sleep apnea that causes poor sleep.