Three Tips for Developing a Healthy Sleep Routine
We all know how important it is for both physical and mental health to make sure we’re getting enough sleep. But for too many people, getting a good night’s sleep is a struggle.
Some people may be kept awake by a racing mind or anxious thoughts, while others may fall asleep just fine but wake up frequently throughout the night.
Whatever that sleeplessness looks like, the results are often the same: feeling irritable, having trouble concentrating, or feeling stuck in a fog during the day.
We’re not at our best when we’re deprived of sleep, and it shows.
For some people, trouble sleeping may be due to a medical condition, and chronic insomnia should always be discussed with your care provider.
For others, trouble sleeping may be caused by what you’re doing a few hours before your head hits your pillow.
Most of us are creatures of habit, as routines offer comfort and a sense of familiarity. If you think about your day-to-day life, you can probably identify a number of different routines —but do you have a sleep routine?
Think of a sleep routine as the steps you take to prepare your body to fall asleep. For some, falling asleep may be as simple as lying down and closing one’s eyes. But for most people, the body needs time to slowly wind down before falling asleep.
Developing a healthy sleep routine is a great way to ensure that your body is as prepared as possible to fall asleep, which in turn can help you get a healthier, more restful night’s sleep.
Below are three steps you can take to create a healthy sleep routine.
1. Cut back on late-night meals.
Between work, a social life, and other obligations, it often seems like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. For many people, this leads to dinner being pushed until later and later in the evening.
Along with increasing the likelihood of snacking in between dinner and lunch, late-night meals have another drawback: they can keep you awake!
Large meals, especially meals containing foods that are spicy, greasy, or high in fat, can take a long time to digest.
If you eat a big meal too close to bedtime, your body isn’t going to have enough time to fully digest what you consumed.
As a result, when you lie down to go to sleep with a full stomach, you increase the likelihood of experiencing gastroesophageal reflux or acid reflux. This uncomfortable sensation is going to make it difficult for you to fall asleep, or can wake you up from sleep as well.
Instead, try to eat dinner two or three hours before bed. This will give your body time to digest whatever you ate, and will decrease the likelihood of reflux.
If you find yourself in a situation where a large meal close to bedtime was unavoidable, it may be a good idea to try to proactively avoid reflux by sleeping with your head elevated. In most cases, using a few extra pillows to prop yourself up a bit will do the trick.
Of course, if your stomach is rumbling, sleep will be hard to come by as well, and a snack may be necessary.
Snack foods that promote healthy sleep include turkey, bananas, and nuts. These foods will help satisfy your hunger without keeping you awake.
2. Create the right sleep environment.
When you’re getting ready to go to bed, it’s important to take steps to ensure that your bedroom is the ideal environment for sleeping.
To create the perfect sleep sanctuary, your room should be two things: cool and dark.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends a room temperature between 60 and 67° F, depending on your preference.
The National Sleep Foundation also recommends dimming the lights in your house an hour before bed, as this helps signal to your body that it’s time to wind down.
Speaking of light, if your bedroom faces a busy street or if your street has bright streetlights, consider investing in light-reducing curtains.
While it may be tempting or soothing to fall asleep with the television on, it’s not the best idea if you’re looking for a deep, restful sleep, as your brain can still process sounds while you’re sleeping. As a result, hearing voices or music from the TV can keep your brain active, lessening the quality of your sleep or even waking you updf.
For some people, leaving the TV on helps quiet the mind and allows them to fall asleep; if this is the case for you, make sure you’re using a sleep timer, and try to set it for no more than an hour.
3. Put away the electronics.
While it can be tempting to lay in bed and scroll through Twitter or Instagram before falling asleep, that scrolling may play a role in keeping you awake.
Some studies have found that using devices that emit “blue light,” such as tablets or smartphones, suppress the body’s production of melatonin and can throw off the body’s internal sleep clock, making it more difficult to fall asleep or to maintain a restful sleep.
Also, all of that scrolling, posting, and reading is going to stimulate your brain, which is not what you want to do right before turning in for the night.
Instead, try to lessen your screen time as the evening goes on. There’s nothing wrong with browsing the web on your tablet after dinner, but try to put away the electronics an hour or so before going to bed.
This will give your brain time to “power down,” so to speak, and will put you in a better place to fall asleep and stay asleep.