When life gets jam-packed with growing to-do lists and unpredictable schedules, it’s easy to let sleep fall low on our priority list; however, without sufficient sleep, we become less alert and, in turn, less able to accomplish our tasks effectively and efficiently.
Getting enough shut-eye is crucial for our brains to function normally—it’s also a major determinant in the quality of our overall health. In the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, it’s common to focus on eating less and exercising more. Fitness and nutrition are undoubtedly crucial factors to our health; however, we can’t neglect the importance of sleep and its direct impact on our bodies and minds.
Sleep is so essential to nearly everything we do. Without sufficient z’s:
- your stress levels soar to new heights
- your decision-making skills nosedive into the ground
- your memory is severely muddled
- your moods are unstable and often overly emotional
- your immune system weakens and welcomes all kinds of new germs
- [note: your long-term health is at risk, too–continually depriving yourself of sleep raises your blood pressure and your risk for heart disease]
A consistent sleep schedule can work wonders on our energy, mood, and efficiency.
Personally, I don’t function well on less than 7 hours a night–go a few nights without quality sleep and I transform into a cranky, clumsy five-year-old with little tolerance for anything.
A good night’s rest, on the other hand, makes me feel like superwoman.
I’d like to share with you a few simple ways you can modify your schedule so you sleep better tonight, and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on whatever life throws at you.
By doing so, you train your body to expect to sleep during the same time period every night. You may need an alarm clock for the first couple of weeks you begin this new habit, but don’t be surprised if you start waking up right before your alarm goes off.
Personally, I like to wake up at 6:30am. It’s ideal for me because it gives me enough time to take my dog for a walk, eat breakfast, and feel alert before I start working at 8am. It was difficult for me to adjust to waking up early every day and resist the urge to stay in bed on Saturdays–but this new habit has drastically improved my sleep and, as a result, increased my energy.
Anybody who knows me is aware of my affinity for caffeine. I barely function without a substantial amount of coffee, but when I decided I had to get my sleep under control, I established a cut-off time for my caffeine intake that allows the caffeine to get out of my system before I start winding down.
It takes about 6 hours for caffeine’s effects to wear off completely; for me, this means putting down the coffee around 3 pm.
Heavy meals before bed can disrupt your sleep and keep you up with late night digestion. Eating dinner at least 2-3 hours before bed can give your body plenty of time to digest and settle down. While you shouldn’t go to bed on a full stomach, that definitely doesn’t mean go to bed with your stomach growling.
If you are still hungry before bedtime, having a light snack ( for example, a banana and peanut butter) can curb your hunger without hindering your sleep. If I’ve had a particularly active day, I’ll frequently feel my stomach growl as night time grows near. A small bowl of cereal or a cup of yogurt is typically my go-to snack.
We’re getting close to the grand finale! Establishing a relaxing routine to wind you down before bed gets your mind in the right place so you’ll be ready to close your eyes when the time comes.
Try to begin settling down an hour before you turn your lights out. Avoid screens like the plague–the white screens on your cell phone and laptop will keep you from falling asleep. Rather than scrolling through your Facebook feed, pick a relaxing activity you enjoy, whether it be it be reading a (printed) novel, taking a warm bath, or meditating.
I aim to go to bed at 10:30pm so I can get a solid 8 hours, so I plan accordingly and start winding down an hour before bed. At 9:30pm I typically start winding down by brushing my teeth, washing my face, and putting some comfy pj’s on. I’m a big fan of reading, but I occasionally will journal before bed.
Journaling can be super helpful to calm my anxious mind when my thoughts are running wild.
Now that you’ve worked hard to cultivate good sleep habits throughout your waking hours, you’re ready to climb under the sheets and get some z’s.
Don’t let sleep take the backseat tonight. Establish routines to cultivate a sounder sleep–so you can rise and shine and attack the day.