March is National Sleep Awareness Month, making it the perfect time of year to assess the quality of the sleep that you’re getting. After all, we spend an entire third of our lives in bed!
Health professionals are serious about making sure that we’re getting enough sleep, as it’s essential to a healthy lifestyle and our all-around happiness and well-being. Unfortunately, the vast majority of American adults aren’t getting enough sleep
, and the sack time that we do manage to pull together is of a lower quality than it really should be, according to the National Sleep Foundation and their recent study on how much sleep we really need.
That’s the bad news, but luckily there is some hope on the horizon! Check out these 7 simple steps to making sure that you’re getting an awesome night’s rest:
1. Turn Your Bedroom into a Sleep Haven
One of the best and easiest ways to get better sleep is by making sure that your bedroom is a haven for sleep. Start by ensuring that it’s nice and dark by investing in blackout curtains to encourage the production of melatonin, which is the natural brain chemical that induces sleep. On a budget? Try a sleep mask instead of new window coverings. Your next step should be to make sure that the temperature is just right for sleepy time by adjusting it to the recommended 60-65° F. Want to take things up a notch? Add an essential warmer and stock up on lavender and geranium scents, which have been found to naturally produce a calming effect, and drift off to Dream Land faster and easier than ever before.
2. Invest in a Better Bed
If you find yourself waking up with a neck or back ache on a regular basis, notice lumps or bumps on your bed’s surface, or have had your current mattress for more than seven years, it might be time for a new one! Make sure that your new and improved bed
is centered around better sleep by investing in a mattress that is comfortable and supportive enough
to conform to your natural body shape.
3. Make Unplugging a Priority
Today’s world is jam-packed with technology that makes for a chaotic and fast-paced lifestyle, thanks to being plugged into content from smartphones, TV, and social media from the moment that our feet hit the floor each and every morning. All of that non-stop stimulation is the enemy of a good night’s rest! In order to combat the effects of living in the 21st
century, your best bet is to switch off all electronic devices at least 2 hours before bedtime. And yes, that does include your cell phone.
4. Accentuate the Positive
Scientists and health professionals have found a direct link between heightened anxiety and the lack of sleep. Lying in bed with your mind racing about the myriad of to-do lists and bills that you have waiting for you the next day is guaranteed to result in having trouble sleeping. The good news? There is a simple way to unwind and get to sleep, thanks to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), such as deep breathing and meditation. By giving yourself some positive affirmations to focus on at bedtime, you’ll help your brain activity to slow down and get yourself relaxed and ready for resting. For example, silently repeat to yourself, “I will be well-rested and productive tomorrow,” or other similar positive phrases.
5. Imbibe in Soothing Snacks
We’ve all heard that we are what we eat, and when it comes to getting good sleep, that is especially true. What you eat or drink right before bedtime can have a drastic effect on your ability to fall (and stay) asleep. Try snacking on foods that encourage sleep, such as cherries, chicken or other lean meats, and whole grain rice. Just be sure to stay away from spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol – they will keep you up, tossing and turning. And remember that your best bet is to not eat anything in the last 2 hours before you turn in for the night.
6. Stay Active
Getting out there and getting active during the day is a great way to tire yourself out and encourage better sleep at night, whether it’s with sports, calisthenics, or even walking your dog. But be sure not to work out to close to bedtime, as any physical activity that you get any less than 2 hours before turning in can actually have the opposite effect that you’re after by increasing alertness thanks to an elevated heart rate.
7. Focus on Relaxation
Long hours at a demanding job, multiple family and social obligations, and being exposed to intense media that comes with living in the world today can all add up to making the task of unwinding before bed seem downright impossible. So make it your mission to imbibe in some “me time” before bedtime by doing some light yoga, taking a warm bath, or listening to some relaxing music. Your mind and body will come down from being in peak performance mode, and you’ll be able to get the good night’s rest that you need and deserve.