We all know that sleep is important but it’s really hard to get to bed on time and tune out the stress that life often brings. As someone who has struggled with sleep off and on my whole life, I’ve done tons of reading on the subject, tried various things and, most importantly, found that good sleep begets more good sleep. With a flurry of information on the internet and books being published on the subject with greater frequency, there are plenty of suggestions but these are my personal favorites. I hope they work just as well for you. Here’s to a good night’s sleep!
1. Every bedroom needs black-out curtains.
Even if you don’t have street lights that shine in your bedroom windows, the moon itself can make your room bright, far brighter than you need it to be when you are trying to get that elusive good night’s sleep. Invest in black-out curtains or add another lining to the curtain you already have. If you have blinds, consider adding curtains on top of them. This also adds an additional layer of protection against the cold and heat, as many windows leak energy. For a good night’s sleep, the darker the room, the better.
2. Sleep masks and sleep pillows are worth considering.
As an extra way to ensure total blackness, sleep with a sleep mask on. This protects you from the lights emitted from your clock or other electronics. If you share a bed, the glow from your partner’s Kindle can make it really hard to fall asleep, so a sleep mask can also help your relationship! Personally, I like an eye pillow, which, as a side benefit, “trained” me to sleep on my back. Why? Because when you turn on your side, the pillow falls away from your eyes. When I sleep on my side, my shoulder joints can hurt, so this was really helpful. My favorite eye pillows are filled with flax seeds to apply acupressure and have a lavender scent, to provide aromatherapy benefits, which help many fall asleep faster.
3. Amber lights affect your brain in a positive way for sleep.
Have you tried adding amber-colored lightbulbs to your bedroom lights, especially the ones on your bedside table? Blue light spectrums keep us awake, while red light spectrums are better for inducing sleep. Also, you can have your computer’s screen light switch from a blue spectrum to an amber light spectrum automatically each night using f.lux software. I use Mac products and downloaded f.lux for my phone, laptop and desktop. It also works for Windows, Linux, iPhone/iPad and Android. This simple step helps your brain start to shut down. An hour before bedtime, make sure the lights are either dimmed or off, turn off electronics, and consider switching lightbulbs in your bathroom and bedside table to amber ones. For an interesting article on light spectrums and how they relate to melatonin, read this from the Huffington Post.
4. Consider melatonin.
Speaking of melatonin, it is a natural hormone that your body produces but production declines with age. And as just mentioned, light affects the amount of melatonin that your body naturally makes, which may be a factor in the winter with seasonal affective disorder. Melatonin supplements are available over-the-counter and can help your body realize it’s bedtime. Personally, I use melatonin when I’m “out of the habit” of going to bed when I want to and I need my body to “relearn” to be sleepy earlier. For me, it works like a charm and I’m so glad my doctor suggested it. But don’t think that this is a pill to induce sleepiness. According to WebMD, “Melatonin is called the ‘vampire hormone’ because it is produced primarily in darkness and inhibited by light. The levels of your melatonin increase in the middle of the night and gradually fall as the night turns to morning, so exposure to light before bed can push your biological clock in the wrong direction — making melatonin ineffective.” So, the whole thing about turning off the screen time an hour before bed? Makes more sense now, huh?
5. Cooler temperatures usually are best to induce a better night’s sleep.
The ideal temperature for sleep is somewhere between 60 and 72 degrees. That is hard on the electric bill during summers in the South, that’s for sure. Those blackout curtains mentioned at the beginning do help, especially if you keep them shut in the daytime to keep the sunshine out. In the winter, they can keep out the cold air at night as well. But ideal sleep temperatures vary by the individual, so do pay attention to your thermostat and take note of when you sleep well and at what temperature your thermostat was set.
6. White noise is the noise you want.
Do you hear a creak downstairs and suddenly worry someone is in your house? Or perhaps you hear the heat come on, or someone flush a toilet. These noises keep you awake and, sometimes, it’s hard to make your brain not seek out noise when it’s too quiet. This is why white noise is so great. Think babies: Noise machines and classical music help them fall asleep and sleep more soundly. In this case, what’s good for baby is good for you, too! Buy a white noise machine or use an app if you sleep with your tablet or smart phone (which is actually a no-no for a good night’s sleep but you probably already know that!).
7. Stick to a schedule.
If you go to sleep one night at 9 p.m. because you were up until 1:30 a.m. working or reading or partying the night before, you are setting yourself up for a potential poor night’s sleep. Sticking to a schedule is best. Have that schedule include getting off of your screens (phone, computer, TV) an hour before bedtime. For everyone who has a television in their bedroom … well, you may want to rethink that, especially if you are having trouble getting some good shuteye. And your schedule should also include getting up around the same time each day, which admittedly is hard to do on the weekend.
8. A clean room matters.
When you room is clean, there is just less chaos as you are shutting down. It makes it easier not to get anxious. Your room is your sanctuary, so keep the mess outside your room and aim for the calming effects that an organized space can bring. Plus, if you have to get up in the middle of the night, you are far less likely to trip over anything or stub your toe!
There are many other factors to consider when yearning for a good night’s sleep: Does your mattress need to be replaced? Are your pillows the right ones for you? Do you need a heavier blanket? Is your exercising helping or hindering your sleep (time of day for exercise can matter here!)? Do you change into pajamas? Do you drink caffeine late in the day? So much information … but the ones listed today have made the biggest difference in my life and I hope you find your magic combination to make your sleep the best it can be. Lastly, the National Sleep Foundation offers great suggestions on how to set up your room to get a good night’s sleep. Check them out here. Sleep tight!
Find more great suggestions for healthy living in our “Health & Beauty” section.