A friend asked me recently how I manage to not be exhausted. I work a lot, own two businesses and have an active life. But that does not mean I scrimp on sleep. I have become a pro at sleeping well because my health depends on it. Today I’m sharing five tips for better sleep to share with you.
Regardless of how much I have going on, sleep is near the top of my priority list. And when I say sleep, I mean 8 to 9 hours a night.* That probably sounds like a crazy indulgence to many of you. But your health is worth the indulgence!
When I slept too little and didn’t focus on the quality of sleep, my stress hormones were over active. That caused many issues, including difficulty maintaining weight, difficulty feeling rested when waking up in the morning, general crankiness. My immune system was compromised, not a good thing for a girl with autoimmune diseases or anyone who wants to avoid colds and flu. I didn’t remember as clearly as I do now. Turns out while we sleep, our body is working like a super computer, backing up all of the information from the day. Poor sleep equals poor memory. I turned all of this around by changing how I view sleep and developing a sleep routine. Sleep is SO good and it’s a non-negotiable for me. I think it should be for you, too.
Here are my five tips for getting better sleep. Consider trying just one and see if you feel a difference!
1. Make your sleep space a sanctuary. While I am thrifty in other areas of my home, I do not scrimp on bedding. Buy sheets that feel great to you. If you like the crispness of hotel sheets, go with that. If you like silky soft, high thread count sheets, buy them! Place lighting close enough to your bedside that you don’t have to get out of bed to turn it off (I use a remote). And speaking of lighting, no backlit devices for reading in bed. Leave the iPhone or iPad reading to daytime. If you are going to read in bed, read a real book (the kind made from paper, they still make them ) and use a soft light. But about that reading…limit it. Bed is for snuggles, sex and sleep.
2. Wake up slow. I do not leap out of bed in the morning. I use phone apps that gently wake me, not a scare-me-from-my-sleep alarm clock. My favorite is The Gentle Alarm. It’s $4. After I am awake, I sit quietly in bed for 15 minutes or so. I take in the daylight streaming in the windows, listen to the birds outside, gently prepare myself for the day ahead in a calm way. This sets the tone for my day.
3. Naps. When my schedule doesn’t allow for enough nighttime sleep, I add in daytime naps. This works better than trying to make up for lost sleep by going to bed earlier or sleeping in later, both of which can disrupt the natural sleep cycle. Going to bed and rising at the same time most days is beneficial, but we all know that doesn’t always happen. So try adding in a nap!
4. Daylight and Vitamin D! Let the light shine in your windows in the morning, consider taking your sunglasses off for a bit to let your body know it’s daytime. Buy a Happy Light and use it at your desk. Get outside, even in the winter, to absorb a bit of Vitamin D naturally. Supplement with D3 in an amount your doctor recommends. Daylight and D, both important to getting great sleep.
5. Meditation and Progressive Muscle Relaxation. There are many free or inexpensive resources for guided meditations focused on bedtime. I like this one from Meditation Relax Club, however I suggest you find one that resonates with you. Find a voice that is soothing to you. There are many on YouTube and also audio only files thru iTunes and Amazon. The audio is the important part, avoid watching any video from a backlit device at bedtime. The voice will guide you through a gentle relaxation and you may even fall asleep before it is over. That’s A-OK! My second recommendation in this category is Progressive Muscle Relaxation, a method of tensing one group of muscles starting with your toes and moving up your body. It’s another great way to prepare your body for sleep and takes just 10 minutes or so. I like this one from Inner Health Studio.
So to recap: build yourself a comfy nest to sleep in, take your time rising in the morning, have a nap, get some sunshine and meditate. It’s not necessary to do all of these right now, today. Just pick one and give it a try. I wish you sweet dreams!
*I sleep 8 to 9 hours a night because it is the right amount for me. I encourage you to find the right amount for you, since we are each unique in our need for sleep.