Sleep may seem like a luxury when you’re pulling long shifts and trying to keep up with your family’s schedule. However, it’s an absolute necessity for your emotional and physical health, not to mention your professional success. We’ve put together six steps that move you closer to that full seven to nine hours of sleep. Changes may not come all at once, but if you’re slowly and surely using good sleep habits, you’ll more consistently get the rest you need.
1. Are you spending time outside?
The eyes have special photoreceptors that absorb the sun’s blue spectrum light and directly send messages to the circadian region of the brain. These signals cause the suppression of sleep hormones throughout the day. As light levels decrease, the body prepares to begin the sleep cycle. Increasing your exposure to natural light by taking a walk at lunch or time in the backyard after work can strengthen your circadian rhythms and regulate your sleep cycle.
2. Do you eat at regular intervals?
Meal timing is another factor that influences sleep, and consistency is key. The circadian rhythms are influenced by changes in your daily habits. Eating your meals at roughly the same time each day and spacing them at regular intervals creates a pattern the brain can predict.
3. Do you limit your caffeine intake?
Caffeine blocks sleep hormones, and it doesn’t affect everyone the same way. Depending on your size and tolerance for caffeine, it may stay in your system and keep you awake for five to seven hours. Stop ingesting it in any form several hours before bedtime.
4. How consistent is your nighttime routine?
The brain likes predictable patterns. A consistent nighttime routine prepares the body and gives the brain the “go” signal for the sleep cycle. Your routine is also a good way to address stress or tension before going to bed. Meditation, yoga, stretching, or simply reading a book can help bring down your heart rate in preparation for better sleep. Be sure to perform your routine in the same order every night.
5. Is your bed comfortable?
Your bedroom conditions can contribute to wakefulness. A good mattress should keep your spine aligned while you are in your preferred sleep position. If it’s lumpy, too firm, or too soft, it could be causing discomfort and restlessness. Light in the bedroom can be a problem too. Block out streetlight, moonlight, and light from car headlights. If you’ve got noisy neighbors consider, using a white noise app or machine. Try to create the ideal cool, dark, and quiet sleep conditions your body needs.
6. What time do you go to bed?
Try to keep the same bedtime (and wake-up time) on weekdays and weekends. If you’re going to bed at 10 pm on weekdays and 1 am on the weekends, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. The human body was designed to run on cyclical patterns that regularly repeat in a 24-hour period. Changing your pattern every few days leaves the brain guessing. It can throw off the timing of your sleep cycle, so you don’t feel tired at bedtime or leave you exhausted mid-day.
Better sleep comes with a consistent pattern of behavior that supports your body’s sleep needs. As you build these habits into your daily routine, it can strengthen your response to sleep hormones. More importantly, it can help you get a full night’s rest every day.