“You snooze, you lose,” goes the old saying, but when you don’t get enough sleep, nobody wins. When we’re tired, we’re a lot less likely to exercise and eat right. We get more irritable, stressed and are more prone to getting sick. And we’re less productive, too; sleep deprivation costs billions of dollars a year in lost productivity.
So how do you get the shuteye you need? Try these tips:
1. Create a pre-bed ritual
Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, even on the weekend. Establish a pattern of calming activities such as a bath, reading, meditating or writing in your journal every night to train your mind and body to know it’s time to settle down.
2. Step away from your smartphone
The blue light from your phone or tablet suppresses the production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, which is why people who spend a lot of time looking at a screen before bed tend to have trouble nodding off. If you like to read e-books, try using a reader that isn’t backlit – there are a number of options that mimic the experience of reading a paper book. Can’t stay away from that phone before lights-out? Buy a screen cover that minimizes blue light.
3. Try to stress less
Poor sleep is our number one response to stress. And it’s a double-edged sword — not getting enough shuteye increases stress, and heightened stress levels make it harder to sleep. So how do you break the cycle? Find ways to recharge throughout the day. Take ten minutes to go for a walk, practice mindfulness exercises, try yoga, or download a deep breathing app.
4. Cool it
Our body temperature naturally drops as we’re falling asleep, so a cool room can help that process along, while an environment that’s too warm may actually inhibit drifting off. Ideal bedroom temperatures range from 65-72°F – experiment to see what works best for you.
5. Lose the light
Darkness triggers melatonin production, and too much ambient light can suppress it. The darker your bedroom, the more likely you are to sleep well. Install blackout curtains to block streetlights and cover or remove electronics with light-up displays.
6. Move more
People who exercise consistently tend to sleep better. Working out three to four times a week can make a real difference over time. Just don’t hit the gym too close to bedtime, or the adrenaline from your workout could end up keeping you awake.
7. Eat to sleep
Did you know that certain foods can help you nod off at night? Your body needs vitamin B6 to make melatonin, so eating B6-rich foods like fish, bananas, chickpeas, nuts and lentils can help.
8. Avoid alcohol
It’s no surprise that cutting back on caffeine can reduce wakefulness. But did you know that alcohol inhibits sleep, too? Yes, that glass of wine may help you drift off, but as its effects wear off, you’re more likely to come out of a deep sleep — and more likely to wake up.
Still can’t sleep?
Try not to stress about it. Short bouts of insomnia happen to almost everyone. But if you’re tired all the time, talk to your doctor to rule out sleep apnea or any other underlying causes. It’s also a good idea to get the go-ahead from your doctor to ensure these strategies are right for you.