A good night’s rest is essential for effective thinking and learning. Lack of sleep can hurt these cognitive processes by impairing alertness, attention, concentration, reasoning and problem solving. These are all things we need to get through our day with ease.
In addition, not getting enough sleep is a huge safety hazard on our roadways. Being drowsy when behind the wheel can slow your reaction time down to the same levels as drinking and driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S. The problem is greatest among people under 25 years old.
Here are my top 10 tips to help get your beauty rest:
1. Keep a consistent schedule.
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. Consistency is important here. Set a regular bedtime each night. Make it a time when you're normally tired anyway. Then wake up at the same time. If you're getting enough sleep, you should wake up without an alarm. I know most of us have to use an alarm, hit snooze and drag ourselves out of bed each morning. With the proper schedule, this will eliminate the dreaded alarm clock.
2. Take a nap if needed.
If your body needs to make up for lost sleep, naps are perfectly fine. Taking a daytime nap is better than sleeping late, especially on a weekend. Make sure to nap early in the afternoon and try to make it no longer than 30 minutes so it doesn’t disrupt your bedtime routine.
3. Increase your light exposure during the day.
Try to spend more time outside during the daytime. Take a break from work and go outside for a nice walk when the weather permits. Let as much natural light as possible into your home or office during the day.
4. Naturally boost your melatonin at night.
Turn off all electronics before you go to bed. Many people fall asleep to the TV but this is a mistake. The light suppresses your natural melatonin production and the TV can actually stimulate you rather than calm you down. This is the same when you get in bed and search Facebook or Pinterest on your phone. Instead, try listening to soothing music or a meditation CD or app on your phone. Make sure you room is dark and relaxing.
5. Make your bedroom more inviting and calming.
Keep the noise down in your room. If you live in a busy area where there is always noise outside, try using a fan or white noise to drown it out. Keep your room cool as well. Being too hot, or too cold, can affect the quality of sleep you get each night. Also, make sure your bed is comfortable. I know I have to have my sheets tucked in just right before I get in bed. My husband couldn't care less about having the sheets in the proper place but he knows it's essential for me to be comfortable. Find what works best for you, as we're all a bit different.
6. Eat dinner earlier in the evening.
I know some families don’t eat until 9 p.m. or even later. You should be eating about four hours before bedtime to ensure proper digestion before you hit the hay. If you have a fatty dinner, then get in bed, you could get heartburn or a slight stomachache, as a heavy dinner takes a lot of work for your stomach to digest.
7. Cut down on the caffeine.
If you are drinking coffee or soda in the afternoon, it's going to be much harder to get to bed at your chosen time. Try to cut out all caffeine by noon each day and stick with water and herbal decaffeinated tea the rest of the day to ensure a good night’s rest.
8. Get movement into your day.
Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. You don’t have to go to the gym and pump iron to get the effects. You can take a walk with your dog or do yoga poses at home and still get the benefits.
9. Relaxation and deep breathing.
If you find yourself lying in bed but unable to sleep, try taking deep breaths to clear your mind and relax your body. I love to relax my entire body by starting at my feet. You tighten the muscles for a few seconds then release. Do this all the way up to your head and you will be amazed at how relaxed you feel when completed. This is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
10. Don’t stress about sleep.
Focusing on the time and calculating how many hours until the alarm goes off doesn’t help things. I know, because I'm guilty of this, especially when I have an early flight to catch. Try to make relaxation your goal, not sleep. Work to clear your mind, and if you find you're worrying, or having anxiety about the following day, write it down in a notebook next to your bed and allow yourself to put those thoughts at rest. This ritual can greatly reduce the racing thoughts that go through our heads when we finally let our bodies relax.
You owe it to your body to take care of it and sleep is a huge part of self-care. We put gas in our car when it's empty and we charge our cellphones when the battery is low, so it only makes sense that we take care of ourselves and get the proper rest we need to function at our best capacity.
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