The quality of your sleep is important for overall health reasons. If you do not sleep well, then you risk becoming sleep deprived, which has a negative impact on everyday life. Even the simplest of tasks can seem more stressful when you’re tired. And, your immune system can become compromised if you do not get enough rest.
Let’s address two of the most common questions about getting quality sleep. By the end of this post, you’ll have a few ideas that you can try tonight to improve the quality of your sleep.
How much sleep do I need?
Several studies have been done to find the magic number of hours a person needs to sleep every night. The consensus is between 7 and 9 hours for MOST people. Let’s be honest, the majority of us are not getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep. We have crazy busy lifestyles that generally do not allow the luxury of sleeping for 8 hours. So, keep in mind that the magic number is different for everyone. You might need less than 8 hours, while your best friend or spouse can get by with 5 hours of sleep. As long as you feel completely rested, then you are probably getting enough sleep. If you awake feeling tired, irritable, or just blah, then you should consider an earlier bed time to get an extra hour or two of sleep each night.
How can I make sure I’m getting quality sleep?
There are 3 simple things you can try tonight for better quality sleep. If you suffer from daytime fatigue or other signs of sleep deprivation, try modifying your bedtime routine to include these healthy sleep habits. Keep in mind, it can take 3 weeks to form a new habit.
1) Satisfy your belly. If you’re hungry, you’ll toss and turn because your belly is growling. If you’re stuffed, you’ll toss and turn because your belly is uncomfortable. If you’re thinking about food while laying in bed, then you probably need to eat a little more or less before bedtime. In general, you should have your last meal or snack about 2 hours before bed.
Along the same lines, don’t drink large amounts of water before bed. Waking up to pee at night interrupts your sleep cycle.
2) Create a bedtime ritual. If you always read a book, do some stretches, pack your lunch, and turn off the lights at 10:30 pm, this is your bedtime ritual. Having habits like these can make it easier to fall asleep because your brain is programmed to follow habits. If you have bad bedtime habits, like watching television or flipping through Facebook before bed, it is easier to change the habit than to quit altogether. Choose a book or magazine to read instead, or try journaling for 15 minutes. Write down your top 3 priorities for tomorrow. Maybe light a candle or play some relaxing music to help you unwind.
What’s your bedtime ritual?
3) Quiet the mind. Many people struggle to fall asleep because they can’t turn off their brain. You rehash the events of the day, making mental notes of what needs done tomorrow. Or you replay a conversation in your mind over and over. While that may sound like it’s exhausting or productive, it’s actually stimulating your brain to stay awake. Meditation (with or without yoga) is a great way to quiet the mind and initiate healthy sleep habits. Journaling is also helpful, but limit how much time you spend writing to 15 or 30 minutes. Get those mental notes out of your head and onto a piece of paper.
Engaging in physical activity (i.e., exercise) is also great for your getting better sleep, because a tired body sleeps well. Think about it, don’t you sleep better after a hard day’s work? So get that exercise in, but NOT right before bedtime. Many people struggle to fall asleep after working out.