When is the last time you drove a car without gas in the tank? Never, right? Of course, because the car wouldn’t run. So why is it that we do that with our bodies, especially when our fuel is free?
We could list the benefits of sleep, but it’s a mile long and at this point, we know them. More energy. Improved memory. Sharper attention. Lower stress. Healthier weight. And the list goes on and on and on.
In the ~revised~ words of Elle Woods, sleep gives you energy. Energy makes you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.
With all these benefits, in addition to the fact that sleeping feels fantastic and it’s one of the few investments we can make in our lives that doesn’t cost a dime, why is it that we still aren’t getting enough sleep? Why is it that we are waking up in the morning with a burning hatred towards our alarm clocks? Why is it that we hit a wall midway through our day and all we want to do is nap, yet when we get home, we still don’t go to sleep at a reasonable hour?
The answer is simple: we are surrounded by sleep sabotagers. From endless scrolling to the roommate who wants to go out on a Tuesday night to late night Friends reruns. It’s like the Universe has it out for our sleep schedule.
Fortunately, there’s some good news. As the fierce, independent, brilliant rockstar that you are, you are in the driver’s seat. You have control over your personal gas tank and you can in fact ensure that you are always running on full. And we have nine easy habits you can start practicing tonight.
1. Commit to recharging.
It’s easy to say “I want to get more sleep” just like it’s easy to say “I want to be able to run five miles” or “I want to start my own business.” Wanting to do something and actually doing it are unfortunately wildly different. The key to truly getting the sleep your body needs (and really any ambition you may have) is stating exactly what it is you want and mapping out exactly how you plan to get there.
Let’s say you want to get eight hours of sleep every night. That’s an investment of your time, just like dedicating time to running or starting a business. You can’t just expect the time to magically appear. You have to go out and take it for yourself.
So set your goal and determine exactly how you plan to get there. Do you need to turn off your notifications so you aren’t sucked into the blackhole of endless scrolling? Do you need to eat dinner earlier so you aren’t so energized before bedtime? Do you need to pencil in your Netflix time so you don’t end up on a never ending streaming binge? Analyze what is is that is keeping you from getting that full eight hours now and map out exactly how you plan to reach your sleep goal.
Sleep better tonight by…committing to the amount of hours you wish to sleep and plan your evening and morning accordingly.
2. Be a champion napper.
After class, a gruesome workout, or a long day at the office, a nap can feel like the answer to your sleepy prayers. But they can really wreck your nightly snooze if you crawl under the covers mindlessly. According to Dr. Steven Amira at the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, afternoon nap time can hurt your “sleep drive” at night. But there is good news, nap aficionados. If you keep your naps short and before 5:00 pm, your little snooze will serve as the appetizer to your big snooze entree coming later that night.
Sleep better tonight by…keeping your naps short and early, especially before 5:00 pm. If you feel the need to nap later in the evening, that is your body telling you that it’s craving a good night’s sleep.
Just like sleep, exercise seems to have an unending list of benefits. Naturally, these two practices go hand in hand. If you want to sleep better, Kris Carr, New York Times author and wellness expert, suggests penciling in 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, ideally several hours before bed. No gym membership? No problem. It can be as easy as taking a walk around the neighborhood with your bestie or doing a short yoga practice. (Pro tip: there are tons of 20 minute yoga videos on YouTube.)
Sleep better tonight by…being active for 20 to 30 minutes during the day.
4. Watch your food and drink intake.
Ahhh food. It can be sleep’s best friend or its worst enemy, the choice is yours. The Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine said it best: “Eating a pepperoni pizza at 10 p.m. may be a recipe for insomnia.”
The digestive system doesn’t stop working just because you decide it’s time for bed. Instead, it is up to you to plan your food and drink intake accordingly. Just as you wouldn’t drink a coffee right before you go to bed you shouldn’t consume foods that are powering up your body when you are trying to power down. Eat dinner several hours before your planned bedtime so your body has time to properly digest and calm down before shut eye. If you have a hankering for a snack, listen to your body and determine which kinds of foods won’t disrupt your sleep (in my case, that is air popped popcorn or carrots and hummus).
In addition, watch the alcohol, caffeine, and any other beverage you feel is energizing your body. On the other hand, a drink that is known to enhance sleep quality (and we at Spire & Co are big fans of) is reBloom, a non-habit forming, natural sleep drink that is loaded with natural ingredients that help you ease into sleep and wake up feeling recharged and ready to conquer your day.
Sleep better tonight by…eating dinner earlier and being mindful of all food and drink consumed in the hours leading up to bedtime.
5. Treat your bed like your favorite pair of shoes.
We all have our favorite pair of shoes (or book or family heirloom, etc.). We don’t just wear them everyday in every environment. No, we take good care of the precious pair, only using them for special occasions and the perfect outfit. You should treat your bed the same way.
It’s easy to come home at the end of the day and spend the rest of your night in bed, whether working, streaming a show, or just perusing social media. Just like your favorite pair of shoes though, if you use your bed for a bunch of activities other than for special occasions, aka sleeping, you are actually compromising your sleep quality because you are not mentally separating your sleep environment from your work or play space.
Sleep better tonight by…trading your bed for the couch or kitchen and only getting into bed when you are planning to go to sleep.
6. Create a nightly routine that you’re obsessed with.
You have a lot on your plate during the day and being the driven, ambitious person you are, there’s always more you want to accomplish. That drive doesn’t go away just because it hits 11:00pm. The only way you can truly unwind is by creating an environment that encourages such behavior. The same way you love a good morning routine, you need a nightly routine as well.
Determine what it is that helps you relax. A pumpkin spice candle? An enlightening book? A refreshing face mask? Whatever it is, create a nightly routine that you can reasonably stick to and create a space to relax after a long day. The more you do it, the more your body will recognize that it’s time to turn down and turn off.
Sleep better tonight by…experimenting with a nightly routine that tells your body it’s time to power down and relax.
7. Turn off tech.
In the age where it’s actually a sport to keep your Facebook feed a positive space and it’s nearly impossible to do anything without the internet, our minds are racing a mile a minute just to keep up. You can’t get a good night’s sleep if your mind is still sprinting. The best way to tell your mind it’s time to chill out is by turning off your technology. Click the Do Not Disturb button. Sign out of your accounts. Whatever it is you have to do to get the rest of the world out of your bedroom, do it.
In Ariana Huffington’s Thrive, she suggests turning off technology at least one hour before bed and keeping your cell phone out of your room. While that may not be possible for everyone, the simple act of intentionally turning off your notifications and in turn muting the rest of the world will do wonders for your sleeping habits.
Sleep better tonight by…intentionally turning off your notifications and minimizing your usage of technology at least 30 minutes before going to sleep.
8. Make sleep your sport.
Sleeping is a lot like training for a 5K. If you want to reach the finish line–in this case a better night’s rest–you need to consistently train your body. With sleep, that means keeping your practice consistent. Go to sleep at the same time. Wake up at the same time. Have a similar nightly routine. Or, as the Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine said, “synchronize your internal clock.” Like all goals, success comes with repetition.
Pro tip: the iPhone iOS 10 update has a new clock feature called Bedtime, where users can input their sleep goals and create a plan for getting enough rest. To make it even better, it has a sleep analysis tool that measures how consistently you actually meet your sleep goals.
Sleep better tonight by…kickstarting a new sleeping habit, focusing on going to sleep and waking up at the same time.
9. Listen to your body.
At the end of the day, no two human beings are exactly the same, so there are no concrete health rules that apply to everyone. Listen to your body and determine what good sleep hygiene feels like for you. If after a while your efforts seem useless, you may want to consider reaching out to your doctor or a sleep specialist.
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