No, sleep is definitely not for the weak. In fact, contrary to that famous line, getting a good night’s sleep is what a lot of people want at the end of a long and hectic day. They do a lot of things to ensure it. Some people take a relaxing bath before bed, or light some mood candles, or drink a soothing cup of tea. Whatever floats your boat, it’s important to develop helpful bedtime habits that will make sure you get a good night’s rest and lead to a better and happier life.
That’s right, bedtime habits are necessary to guarantee that you get the rest that you need and deserve. Like diet and exercise, good sleep is essential and is one of the basics for good health.
Why Should I Have Good Bedtime Habits?
It’s important for you to establish healthy bedtime habits to ensure that you get a good night’s rest, which will then ensure you get a happier, healthier life. It’s beneficial for both physical as well as mental health. In addition, developing good bedtime habits ensures that your body gets the rest it needs, helps you better manage stress, and provides you with more energy during the day. And finally, it improves productivity and also the overall quality of life.
Bedtime Habits to Develop
Here are a few suggestions you can take note of to ensure you get the best sleep of your life.
Set a Sleep Schedule
Experts recommend at least 7 hours and at most 9 hours of sleep every day. Therefore, you have to be in sync with your body’s sleep-wake cycle, also called its circadian rhythm. It’s a good idea to keep a consistent sleep schedule. That means getting up and going to sleep at around the same time every day. Yes, even on weekends or when you’re on vacation.
This actually helps regulate your body clock and helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for the rest of the night. This then optimizes the quality of your sleep. Keeping a schedule makes you feel more energized when you wake up.
For bedtime, choose a time when you normally feel tired, maybe 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. If you feel drowsy some hours before your intended bedtime, do something mildly stimulating. Some examples are washing the dishes, arranging your books, calling a friend, or laying out your clothes for the next day.
Also, during the weekends, don’t put it in your mind that you deserve to sleep in. If you need to make up for a late night, a short daytime nap will do. However, keep in mind to limit your nap to 15–20 minutes in the early afternoon. This allows you to pay off the lack of sleep you had the previous might without compromising your sleep-wake cycle.
Limit Daytime Naps
And speaking of naps, making sure you don’t overdo is one of the wisest bedtime habits. Many people make naps a regular part of the day. Ever heard of the siesta? It’s actually a tradition practiced by many European countries. It involves taking a short nap in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal. Some examples of countries who still practice this are Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Ecuador.
Yes, napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep. However, if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, napping can actually make it worse. If you can’t help yourself, make sure to limit the napping time to 15–20 minutes. Also, make sure to take them in the early afternoon. Having late-day naps decreases your sleep drive.
Dim the Lights
As your bedtime draws nearer, dim the lights and put away electronic devices with backlights. That means your laptop, TV, and cell phone. Dimming the lights boosts your body’s melatonin production. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is controlled by light exposure. It helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. What happens is if it gets dark, your brain secretes more melatonin, making you sleepy.
Also, this means no more late-night binge watching. This is because the light from the TV suppresses melatonin. Also, most programs nowadays are stimulating rather than relaxing (I’m talking to you, How to Get Away with Murder and Stranger Things).
Avoid Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol
Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. With that said, it’s best to avoid drinking coffee, soda, tea, or chocolate at least 4–6 hours before your intended bedtime.
Also, smokers should not use tobacco products too close to sleeping time. Smoking actually alters the expression of clock genes in the lungs and the brain. This ruins and disrupts a restful sleep. Also, smokers commonly experience restless sleep and are more likely to suffer from insomnia.
With regard to alcohol, yes, it may help to bring on sleep. But after a few hours, once the body starts to process the alcohol, it increases the number of times you wake up during night. This decreases the quality of sleep you get. Make sure to limit your alcohol intake to at most 2 glasses, and avoid drinking within 3 hours of bedtime.
This is one of the most helpful bedtime habits. Regular exercise promotes good quality sleep. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise every day, like walking or cycling, is enough to improve the quality of sleep you get. This ensures that you get better sleep. It also makes sure you don’t feel sleepy during the day.
In addition, regular exercise improves the symptoms of sleep apnea as well as insomnia. Also, it increases the amount of time you spend in the deep and restorative stages of sleep.
Working out in the morning or early afternoon is the best choice. If you exercise close to your bedtime, it can interfere with your sleep. Try to finish moderate to vigorous exercises at least 3 hours before bedtime. Also, soothing mind-body exercises are ideal as well to help promote good sleep.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t work in an instant. It can take several months before you see the benefits of regular exercise to your sleeping pattern. So no matter how hard it may be for you, just be patient and strive to stick to a regular exercise plan.
Make Your Room Conducive for Sleep
This is one of the important bedtime habits. Okay, it’s not actually a habit, but ensuring that your room is ready for sleep can be one. Keep in mind that your bed is for two things only: sleep and sex. That’s it. You shouldn’t do some last-minute work on your bed or watch a bit of TV before bedtime. Doing so will make your brain associate your bed with just sleep and sex. This makes it easier for your body to relax and unwind at night.
Make sure there are no disruptive noises that can be heard in your room. “White noise” machines can help you out with this. Also, ensure your room temperature is just right. Many people sleep best in a slightly cool room with adequate ventilation. And of course, make sure you have a comfortable bed and pillows.
Don’t Force Sleep
There are just some nights where you can’t fall asleep. And the more you toss and turn, trying to to make your brain shut off, the more it won;t work. If you find yourself unable to sleep after about 15 minutes, get out of bed and do something that will relax you. Some light reading or listening to soothing music are good examples. Eventually, sleep will come.