Good news: sleep isn’t for the weak anymore.
In truth, the days of staying up all night have become overrated, along with the myth that you need to sacrifice your sleep to be a hard worker. Even the most hardworking go-getters among us need to dedicate those crucial eight hours to let our bodies relax, recover, and fuel up for the day to come.
Besides keeping you alert, cultivating healthy sleep habits and getting enough sleep is also necessary for staying healthy and preventing obesity (in fact, it's also crucial if you're looking to lose weight).
Not getting enough sleep on the other hand can mess up the levels of your hormones that determine satiation and metabolism, leading to a higher risk of obesity and other chronic diseases. [*]
There are no shortcuts for living a healthy lifestyle. You wouldn’t expect to eat a poor diet and never exercise and be able to remain healthy, and the same is true for sleep.
If you’re having a hard time getting those quality zzz’s, you might want to establish a consistent bedtime routine to get your body primed for bedtime.
Here are 7 tips for establishing healthy sleep habits so you can doze off and consistently get a good night's sleep.
1. Keep a consistent bedtime.
Studies show that people who have irregular sleep patterns are more likely to be at risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. [*]
Even during the weekends, when you might be more tempted to stay awake, fight the urge – playing catch-up with your sleep during the weekends can lead to increased insulin resistance and a higher risk of obesity [*].
Establishing a consistent bedtime optimizes your body's circadian rhythms, or biological clock, which help you fall asleep and stay asleep. When sleep patterns are irregular, this clock becomes disrupted as well.
Figure out what the best bedtime is for you, and then commit to going to sleep at that time every night.
2. Get ready for your day tomorrow before relaxing.
If you’re tossing and turning because of all the things to come tomorrow, the only solution is to control all the variables that you can. Quickly go through your to-do list and agenda for tomorrow and see if there’s anything you can do tonight to make tomorrow morning easier.
Want to hit a long run in the morning? Lay out your workout clothes and shoes so that you can easily slip them on. Have a stressful work meeting in the morning? Set up all of your important documents and files so they’re easily accessible even while your brain is just waking up.
Preparing for everything you can control before you hit the hay will ensure you’re not rushing around in the morning and give you a little more peace of mind as you’re dozing off. Sleep well knowing that everything you can prepare for tomorrow is already taken care of.
3. Set an alarm.
Along with keeping a consistent bedtime, you should also have a schedule in place for waking up.
This further optimizes your circadian rhythms so that your body becomes accustomed to falling asleep and waking at a certain time.
Set your alarm to wake you up at a time when you know you’ve had enough sleep but late enough that you won’t be hitting the snooze button over and over. It’s all about balance.
4. Gentle, purposeful movement.
Some people find that doing some gentle physical activity shortly before bed helps them to relax and doze off.
Practicing some gentle yoga or mindful stretching to let go of the tension of the day and prime your body to sleep can do wonders.
Unless you know you can handle it, avoid doing higher-intensity workouts later at night – the increase in heart rate might keep you awake for longer than you’d like.
5. Wind down for at least an hour.
Set yourself up for sleepy success by dedicating the time directly before bedtime to peace and relaxation. Put on some gentle music or white noise (or ask for complete silence, if that’s what works for you), shut the bedroom door, and spend the hour before you fall asleep focused on being still.
This can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for helping your rest and relax.
You can make a cup of calming decaf tea or a glass of warm non-dairy milk if you like to use these as sleep aids. However, make sure to stop eating a couple of hours before you go to bed so you aren’t falling asleep with a full stomach, which can lead to stomach discomfort and a night of interrupted sleep.
6. Stop screen time early.
If you’re having a hard time falling asleep, your screen time might be to blame.
The unnatural blue lighting emitting from your phone or watching TV when it’s close to your bedtime can interrupt your healthy sleep cycles and lead to a less-restful slumber.
In addition, the content itself might also affect your ability to doze off. Watching television shows and consuming the information available on the internet might be causing your mind to go into overdrive at night.
Make your bedroom (at least an hour before bed) a strict no-phone environment, and keep the TV turned off so you can relax and get some well-deserved rest instead.
Meditating is especially helpful if you find that stress is one of the things that keep you awake during the night.
Studies show that meditating can also help reduce cortisol, a hormone that may keep you up at night.
Allowing yourself to reflect purposefully helps you deal with your emotions – your problems might not go away, but with a consistent meditation practice, the way you see and handle them can change for the better and allow you to relax a little more.
Along with a healthy diet and frequent physical activity, sleep is crucial for keeping your mind and body in tip-top condition. It’s not productive to burn the candle at both ends and stay up all night. Shut everything down and rest easy knowing that sleep is one of the best things you can do for your mind and your body.