Considering that the majority of creatures, if not all, on the planet, including humans, get some form of sleep, it is no surprise that there is a great importance in getting enough of it. For adult humans we have to get at least 7-9 hours of good quality sleep.
You can tell you are getting good quality sleep when you:
- Typically fall asleep within 30 minutes of hitting the sheets
- Sleep through the night without interruption
- Feel well rested and energized when you wake up
The benefits of allowing your body and mind to rest are numerous. Some include:
Our bodies need that time for us to fully relax in order for it to continue to do it’s part in the repair and healing process. Good quality sleep also helps to regulate body weight. When you are well rested, your energy is good and therefore when you eat, you are eating for nourishment and sustenance instead of packing on empty calories in order to compensate for energy loss due to lack of sleep. If we do not get the proper amount of sleep then it can make us prone to negative health outcomes such as in this study here, which shows an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Good quality sleep can also help to regulate blood glucose levels.
Good sleep is also beneficial for learning and memory in being able to retain information. This study here showed sleep’s positive affect on learning and memorizing physical tasks. This is important for those who do physical work for a living or engage in sports. Proper rest also helps with retention of information as noted in research here.
Considering these benefits here are 12 ways to help you relax for great night’s sleep:
Set Time For Bed
Being that we are creatures of habit, sticking with a specific time to go to sleep is key in allowing your body to operate at it’s full capacity on a regular basis. For example, if you go to bed at 9pm each night to prepare to wake up for work at 5am then you should keep that time including on days you do not work. Creating a specific routine around going to bed mentally and physically prepares you for a full night’s rest consistently.
No Electronics (With An Exception)
Refrain from watching TV, videos, and online/computer work at least 1 hour before going to bed. A lot of these electronics can be quite stimulating to our brains. If we are doing any of these things including playing games prior to bed our brains are in a stimulated mode where we are trying to solve a problem or have the constant desire to click on something or move our hands. Instead, reading a story/novel may be less stimulating depending on the type of book.
The one exception I do have to utilizing electronics prior to bed (or even during sleep) are for sleep music or sounds targeted to help one fall asleep (i.e. rain sounds, crickets, etc). If you have to use a phone or laptop, ensure the screen is darkened/face down. The phone and laptop should be on silent (alarms usually still go off even when on silent mode. However, if you are worried it might not alarm, do a test run in the middle of the day. Set your phone to silent and have a test alarm go off in a minute and see if it works). Turn off all notifications at least 1-2 hours prior to sleep and set for the duration of your rest period. There are also white noise machines you can use that have these sounds conducive for sleep.
ASMR (Autonomic Sensory Meridian Response) aka “the tingles” are caused by certain triggers such as massage, certain sounds and more (outlined here). Believe it or not it has helped many individuals fall asleep, especially those who have experienced anxiety. There are many studies that show the benefits of ASMR including this one which shows it’s ability to help reduce heart rate (normal during sleep). ASMR can help to calm your body which is exactly what you need prior to sleep. You can learn more about ASMR here.
Reduce the temperature in your bedroom to be slightly cooler than you would if you were walking around your home doing everyday things. This helps to regulate body temperature conducive to sleep. A temperature around the mid to low 60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
No Meals Before Bed
You want to refrain from eating at least 1 hour prior to getting your rest for the night. A drink such as a bit of water or even some tea such as chamomile may be okay if you don’t have issues going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, which so happens to interrupt your sleep. Refrain from drinking caffeine as that is a stimulant. Your goal before bed is to ease into relaxation to prepare for sleep.
Lights during bedtime can contribute to throwing off our circadian rhythm/sleep times. In turn it can negatively affect our production of melatonin, a hormone in our brains, which helps us get good quality sleep. Now, for some individuals, they choose to sleep with a night light. If this is due to fear of what may be in the dark, it may stem from some other issue which may be helped through consultation with a therapist.
Preparing for bed requires the use of all of our senses. Our sense of smell is no stranger to our sleep experience. Using the right oils can be very beneficial to our quality of sleep according to this study here. Using a diffuser with specific types of scents can help aid the brain and body to get your best sleep. Scents such as lavender, valerian, vanilla and more can help you relax and set the mood.
Taking a bath or shower gives us that relaxing, personal time where we can take care of ourselves. Once again, the use of certain scents can be a plus in helping to calm the mind and body prior to getting into those sheets. You can use certain soaps with these scents or implement aromatherapy by way of a diffuser. If this isn’t available, utilize a lotion/oil that feels soothing as well as beneficial to your olfactory (sense of smell) faculties after bathing.
Plants In The Bedroom
When we have plants in our bedrooms, not only does it help to provide clean oxygen but it can also have a positive effect on our sleep quality through mental health. According to research here, having plants within our vicinity have a positive affect on our emotions. When we go to bed feeling good with a clear mind it provides a calm environment conducive to getting great quality sleep.
Calm Bedroom Colors
Colors typically associated with calm feelings such as blues (shown in this study) and lavenders may be more ideal for a space that can help wind down your mind in preparation for bed. Utilize it for the walls (avoid glossy paints that can reflect light), bed sheets and more.
The day’s questions and worries can have you up all night. Journaling to release any stresses you experienced during your day can help to keep those worries out of your sleep time. It’ll help to reduce possible tossing and turning. Make it a habit by getting it all out in your journal each night at least 2 hours prior to bed time.
Write Plans/To-Do List For Next Day
A lot of times we stay up worrying if we will get everything done the next day. One of the ways to alleviate that is to write down a list of things we will accomplish. This helps you to refrain from waking up in the middle of the night thinking of what you need to do. Get this list done early enough, preferably at least 3 hours prior to sleep, no later than 1 hour.
It is clear through various research that the effects of good sleep on our minds and bodies are key to functioning at our best. Utilizing multiple methods designed to calm your mind, reduce stress and relax your body are important steps to take for your bedtime routine that can prepare you for great sleep. Consistency in applying these methods is key in order to keep your health as optimal as possible through good quality sleep. Sweet dreams!
Remember to stay active in your self-care!