Sleep – it’s the one thing nobody can get enough of in bed. Children, work obligations, and over-packed schedules often get us up at the crack of dawn and leave us toiling well past sundown. In fact, 40% of American adults average less than seven hours of sleep per night – an amount that is not considered to be acceptable by most medical standards. Sadly, however, many of us cannot sleep for any longer than we do. This is why the quality of our slumber is so important.
Here are twelve tricks you can try tonight that will leave you feeling a little bit more rested in the morning:
1. Adopt a bedtime scent.
Smell can be a very effective tool in evoking positive memories and emotions. Associating a certain scent with bedtime will send your brain a strong and clear message that it is time to go to sleep. Spray some essential oil on your pillow, soak in some bath salts, or simply lotion your hands as you lay down in bed. Lavender, chamomile, jasmine, and vanilla are considered to be natural sleep aids, as most people find them to be soothing and associate them with relaxation and calm. Consider choosing one of these, or blending your two favorites.
2. Turn the page.
Reading can be a fantastic way to slow down, clear your mind of daily stresses, and relax. Good literature has the power to whisk you away to another place and time, and can be an ideal mid-point between wakefulness and slumber. Make sure you are indulging in an actual book, though – because of the light they emit, e-readers can actually have the opposite effect.
3. Create a routine.
Prepare for bed every night in the same way. For example, you might choose to shower, then put on pajamas, and finally read a chapter of a book before turning out the lights. The more times you complete this routine, the more effectively these actions will signal your brain to power down and go to sleep.
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4. Leave your worries at the door.
Too many of us are inclined to lay in our beds while we answer work emails, call a friend, or make a to-do list for the next day. Unfortunately, this weakens our mental association between our bed and sleep, and makes us more likely to stress about other areas of our life when we lay down at night. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex – anything else can be done in another room.
5. Make a playlist.
Calming music – think slow rhythms and soothing melodies – has been scientifically proven to improve both the length and depth of your sleep session. Classical music, in particular, has been shown to slow brainwaves and facilitate meditation.
6. Implement a bedtime.
It’s always tempting to stay out late on weekends, especially if you are still young and fun and not a million years old with six kids. However, doing so can wreak havoc on your internal clock. “This is so important,” says Cathy Goldstein, MD, neurologist at the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Michigan. “If we shift our sleep and wake times later—for example, sleeping 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., during the week and 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. during the weekends—we push our internal clock later, then come Monday morning it’s like we’ve flown from California to New York over the weekend—we have social jet lag.”
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7. Embrace your dark side.
A study published in the Journal of Biological Rhythms found that not only do we sleep for longer in the winter due to decreased sunlight hours, but communities without access to artificial light tend to have longer sleeping hours year round. Take advantage of your body’s natural inclination to sleep in the dark, and invest in a set of black-out curtains. Limit screen time before bed, as well – the artificial light emanated by your television or computer could confuse your brain.
8. Relax purposefully.
Most of us understand the role that stress and anxiety play in insomnia, but do little to fight it. Make a decision to build yoga, meditation, or deep breathing into your bedtime routine. Not only will your calming ritual relax you, but the repetition of it will teach your brain to prepare for sleep when you strike your Eagle Pose.
9. Go for a morning run.
Most people sleep better after having worked out during the day. However, trying to fall asleep when you are still full of adrenaline from your spin class may not be ideal. Schedule your workout as early as possible in order to maximize its benefits to your sleep.
10. Snuggle up.
You spend about a third of your life in your bed – shouldn’t you put some effort into making it the most lush and luxurious place in your home? A fluffy comforter, a supportive mattress, and quality pillows should be among your first major purchases as an adult. They can make all the difference when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.
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11. Stay cool.
When we sleep, our core body temperature decreases. Our environment should cool down, as well. A 2012 study confirmed that participants who slept in a warm room did not sleep as soundly as those who slept in a cooler one.
12. Or, heat things up!
Due to the fast pace of our modern lives, many of us have mistakenly come to think of sleep as a luxury. However, it is actually a vital component of a healthy life. Besides leaving us tired and cranky, sleeping too little can impair brain function, immune response, and heart health, among many other negative consequences. Try one of the tips above, and enjoy a truly restful night’s slumber. You deserve it!