Know any early birds? Research has yet to explain why certain people spring from bed to greet each morning with energetic zeal. For their safety, I avoid rooming with these anomalies at conferences. Meditation, attitude-adjusting prayer, and ten ounces of dark roast must pass my lips before conversation with chipper risers. No, I am NOT a morning person.
Instead, I work late, read past common bedtimes, and build fresh story lines beyond midnight. When slumber comes, I nestle in and cherish its embrace. As much as the rich lattes to rouse me from dream fugues, I adore my sleep.
As one of sleep’s biggest fans, I gobble up research on the subject. Adequate rest deserves protection. Whether or not you happen to vault from bed with cheer each day. Sleeping well improves cognition, fitness, mental health, and life expectancy. Personally, I believe it deserves a fan club.
As a groupie pursuing sufficient REM cycles, here are a few tips I’ve come across for improving your chances of a good night’s rest:
1. Turn off Tech
Blue wavelength light interrupts the brain’s natural production of melatonin. Avoiding computer, mobile, and tablet screens at least one hour prior to bedtime allows the brain to prepare for restful sleep.
Drink water during the hours prior to bedtime. Not only will your hydrated system rest well, but since research indicates a nightly glass of H2O helps prevent a heart attack, it can also improve your chances of healthy waking.
3. Keep the Sleep Zone Sacred
Practicing good sleep hygiene includes creating a restful space. Separation of work and sleep is vital. Don’t work in bed. Keep computers and stress-generating accouterments outside your sleeping area. Choose soothing, peaceful color schemes. Maintain a comfortable temperature.
4. Zip thy lip
Eating too close to bedtime can disrupt restful sleep. If your hunger threatens extreme discomfort, limit snacks to those with the least impact upon digestion and body temperature. Sugary or salty snacks can raise midnight blood pressure, aggravating night sweats and restless sleep. Keep in mind those white flour treats and other simple carbs hit your bloodstream as sugar, too. Limit the size of high fiber snacks at night, since your tummy will have to work on them through the wee hours. Unless you suffer from lactose intolerance, try a glass of warm milk instead.
5. Get on the wagon
Alcohol creates fitful sleep and minimizes the benefits of your night’s rest. Alcohol consumption reduces the body’s ability to respond to stress and depresses the immune system, so it threatens to degrade the restfulness of sleep indirectly, as well. Limit or eliminate alcohol to improve your chances of sleeping peacefully.
Though vigorous exercise should be done within a significant time buffer before bed, stretching can relax muscles and ease soreness for a better chance at sleeping well. Consider adding simple yoga exercises or physician-recommended stretches to your nightly routine.
7. Turn off stressful thoughts
Avoid watching or reading media which triggers emotional or cognitive strain right before bed. Create a margin of positive input between horror movies, news broadcasts, or company reports and dreamtime. If a to-do-list lingers in your short-term memory, write it down and put it aside for the next day.
8. Pray and Meditate
Many people feel unable to practice the popular style of mind-emptying meditation. I recommend a more practical form of meditation involving an exchange of negative thoughts for positive spiritual truths. Adding prayer to meditation allows you to submit concerns to God and rest in His presence. Centering yourself in God’s loving care prepares you for a peaceful night.
9. Relaxation breathing
Draw at least ten full breaths, expanding both lungs and diaphragm to capacity and exhaling slowly. Relaxation breathing oxygenates the bloodstream, which acts as a natural muscle relaxant. Adding imagery exercises accentuates the restfulness of this technique.
10. Sound barriers
Extraneous noise can prevent sleep or jar the sleeper to wakefulness during the night. Ear plugs or insulating the bedroom works well for some people. Consider adding white noise, such as a sound machine or fan, to steady the audio environment.
What helps you get a great night’s sleep? I’d love to hear your recommendations!