Sleep is a crucial component of good health. While you sleep, your body is not only experiencing rest and relaxation; it is hard at work repairing tissues, clearing wastes, and manufacturing critical hormones. Preparing your mind and body for a restorative night’s sleep is therefore critical to ensuring you are successful at achieving the slumber you need. Here are 12 tips to both set the stage for a good night’s rest and encourage the healthy habits that will serve your body well.
12. Stick to a Consistent Bedtime
It is tempting to celebrate the end of a workweek by staying up late on Friday night and sleeping in the next morning. However, providing your body with a consistent schedule for sleeping and waking helps to keep your circadian rhythms at an even pace. Your circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle, refers to the fluctuation in hormones that prepare your body for sleep or wakefulness. According to the National Sleep Foundation, your circadian rhythm works best when you go to sleep and arise at regular times each day. Meanwhile, disruptions in your sleep schedule can result in daytime drowsiness and nighttime insomnia.
11. Choose the Right Snack
In general, you will sleep better and avoid packing on extra pounds if you refrain from nighttime noshing. However, if you find yourself needing an evening snack, be mindful about the choices you make. For nighttime snacks, Bistro MD recommends choosing foods that contain protein, are low in calories, and are rich in fiber. Healthy options include a serving of Greek yogurt or a slice of turkey and dab of hummus wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla or lettuce leaf. A banana with a dollop of nut butter, a serving of cottage cheese, or a handful of nuts are other healthy options.
10. Gradually Power Down Your Mind
If you find yourself lying in bed with your thoughts racing, consider consciously transitioning from being active to quieting your mind for rest. The Sleep Doctor, Dr. Michael Breus, recommends using three transition periods in the hour before sleep. Breus recommends utilizing the first 20 minutes for doing tasks that must be done before the morning, such as packing lunches or laying out clothing. Then, the second 20-minute period should be spent on hygiene, such as bathing and brushing your teeth. Finally, the last 20 minutes should be spent on a relaxing activity such as meditation, prayer, or relaxation exercises.
9. Avoid Caffeine
To prepare your body for sleep, avoid caffeinated foods and beverages in the four to six hours before bedtime. If you find it challenging to give up a late afternoon cup of coffee, try sipping on another warm beverage instead. Chicory coffee, made from the roots of the chicory plant, has a robust, woody flavor without the caffeine. You may also want to try substituting hot lemon water, decaffeinated herbal teas, or hot apple cider for a late afternoon cup of joe. Enjoying a refreshing glass of water and spritz of lemon juice can also invigorate you in the afternoon without caffeine.
8. Limit Alcohol
It may feel like a glass of wine or cocktail relaxes you, but drinking alcohol before bedtime can actually disrupt your sleep cycle. Alcoholic beverages can prevent you from obtaining the maximum benefit of restorative REM sleep. While you may not have trouble falling asleep, you may suffer from fatigue, grogginess, or poor concentration the following day. Refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages within two to three hours of bedtime. Instead, choose refreshing beverages like lemon water or soothing beverages like warm milk and honey as the evening hours approach.
7. Sip a Soothing Cup of Tea
Instead of indulging in a glass of wine, you may find a soothing cup of tea helps to set the stage for a good night of sleep. Curling up in your favorite chair with a cup of warm tea can help you relax and unwind from the stresses of the day. Allow a comforting mug of chamomile tea with a splash of honey to ease away your cares as you engage in calming activities. A cup of tea goes great with quiet activities such as reading a light book, listening to soothing music, or cuddling with a loved one.
6. Dim the Lights
Bright lights and loud noises stimulate your mind and prevent you from settling into the calm rhythms that accompany a peaceful bedtime routine. Try dimming the lights an hour or so before bedtime to signal your mind that sleep will soon be found. You may enjoy lighting a candle, turning down the television, and turning on some restful tunes to prepare for slumber. Diffusing lavender essential oils can add a tranquil aroma to your home as well.
5. Limit Screen Time
Avoid spending time staring at your computer screen or scrolling through your brightly lit smartphone in the hour or two before bedtime. This allows your brain relief from the blue light these devices emit. Taking an evening break from screens also allows your eyes and brain time to recover from the stress and strain of the day. Instead, try engaging in activities such as journaling, stretching, drawing, or even coloring.
4. Take a Warm Bath
Pouring yourself a warm bubble bath is a great way to relax and prepare for bed. Light a few candles and drop in a few rose petals for a decadent spa evening in your own home. Try soothing aromas in your bath water such as lavender or chamomile. Warm water will work to ease aching muscles and relieve tension while washing away the cares of the day.
3. Floss and Use Mouthwash
You know how important it is to brush your teeth twice each day. However, it may be tempting to skip flossing. Get into the habit of flossing your teeth each evening before brushing, and soon you won’t even think twice about it. However, your teeth and gums will reap the rewards. Daily flossing helps you prevent gum disease and its negative effects on health. Furthermore, you will find cleanings at the dentist office go more quickly and smoothly. Adding an antiseptic or fluoride mouthwash to your nightly routine will further protect your teeth as you sleep.
2. Utilize Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation exercise and techniques can help prepare your body for a night of restorative slumber. The Yoga Journal offers several poses that can help relax your body right in your bed. For example, you can try child’s pose, in which you kneel down with knees apart and then bend forward to rest your head on the floor or mattress. This position helps to relax your muscles, relieve tension in your back, and calm your mind. Progressive muscle relaxation techniques are also useful for preparing for sleep. While lying down, begin at the top of your head and concentrate on clenching and relaxing groups of muscles as you work your way down your body.
1. Pray or Meditate
Taking time to pray or meditate before sleep helps you to center your mind and gain perspective. Harvard Health reports that mindful meditation not only helps prevent insomnia but also improves sleep quality. Furthermore, time spent in prayer can help move your focus from the problems and worries of the day, calm your mind, and renew your outlook.