Getting consistent, restful sleep is elusive for many Americans: according to data from the CDC, 30-35% of Americans struggle with symptoms of insomnia annually, with about 10% of the population suffering from chronic insomnia. Poor sleep can have a pronounced negative effect on your health, raising your risk of depression, hypertension, other illnesses and reducing your overall quality of life.
Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to improve the quality of your sleep and, by extension, your health. So, let’s discuss some simple changes you can make to improve your sleep routine.
1. Set up your bedtime routine
Probably the best advice for your sleep: Create a routine. Setting aside an hour (or even 30 minutes) before bed to unplug, unwind, and prepare your mind and body for sleep can make a world of difference. This habit is great to regulate your body’s clock, not only to help you fall asleep but also to ensure you stay asleep until the next morning.
There are many useful things you can do to utilize this time: mute your phone and step away from screens. Brew yourself a cup of herbal or other caffeine-free tea, have a relaxing soak in the tub, read a chapter or two of a book (preferably not a suspenseful page-turner!), meditate, or do some yoga — whatever you find helps your body and mind settle down and prepare for sleep.
While sleeping and waking up at the same time every day is ideal, it may not be possible for people who work late or varied shifts. If this is your situation, focus more on the routine itself, setting up restful activities that will send the message to your brain that it’s time to rest. It might take a few weeks, but eventually you’ll train your mind and body to go to sleep on cue.
2. Cultivate a restful environment
Set yourself up for a good night’s sleep by ensuring that conditions in your room are ideal for sleep. Make sure that your room is dark at night (exposure to light hinders the production of melatonin), quiet, and use a fan or white noise machine to eliminate distracting sounds in the night.
Your bed bust be a comfortable space, so don’t use it to do work or homework. Save it exclusively for resting, as your mind and body can easily make psychological associations that create triggers which could negatively impact your sleep.
3. Be mindful of what you eat and drink
It’s not a secret anymore, what you eat and drink before bedtime affects your sleep. Most experts recommend avoiding caffeine, sugar, nicotine, and alcohol in the hours before bed, as they can make it harder to fall asleep and disrupt what sleep you do get.
Additionally, avoid eating a heavy meal just before bed – don’t go to bed hungry, but don’t overeat either. It’s usually recommended to consume your meal at least three to four hours before bedtime. Heavier lunches are also usually good as there’s less of a need to eat a big meal before sleep.
4. Manage your stress
Stress is our reaction to our daily routine, affecting us both physically and mentally. Even though the right amount of stress can have a positive impact, too much stress can make us anxious and cause sleep disorders.
It can be hard to set aside your concerns from the day, but continuing to ruminate over what’s worrying you can keep you awake and make sleep feel impossible.
There are many options to manage your anxiety such as meditating, journaling, or practicing other stress management techniques.
Daily exercise is also a great practice when it comes to relieving stress and anxiety. For people with a desk job, a good workout is by far one of the best ways to improve sleep quality – as long as you are not exercising just before bedtime!
5. Consider adding a health supplement
Consider supplementing with a natural extract, such as melatonin, or CBD to decrease anxiety and induce relaxation and restfulness before bed.
While Melatonin is a hormone naturally made by your body, using it as a supplement helps your body to know when it’s time to sleep and wake up. It’s ordinarily used to treat or prevent jet lag as well, to avoid that run-down feeling people usually experience when they are changing time zones.
On the other hand, CBD is a naturally occurring compound found in the hemp plant. It is used by many to improve relaxation, reduce anxiety, or just as an overall wellness supplement. There are many forms of CBD oil products available on the market right now, the most common ones being CBD oil capsules and CBD oil tinctures.
Getting consistent and quality sleep is essential to your health. While these tips may not ease your insomnia instantly, if you maintain this routine, you should start to see results within a few weeks. If, after this time, you still aren’t sleeping better, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor to rule out any underlying medical condition.