Sleep is such an essential, universal human function that it’s truly amazing how often we manage to botch it up. It’s such a complicated process that even the slightest change in our bodies or lives can produce a butterfly effect that steals away our precious slumber. If you’ve been having problems sleeping, try these 10 simple tips to get an easier, deeper, more restful sleep.
1. Exercise at dusk
Studies show that moderate exercise a few hours before bedtime regulates hormone levels that allow you to fall asleep easily and naturally. Try eating an early dinner and then taking a long walk. Experiment to find the time that works best for you.
2. Don’t eat before bedtime
If you go to bed with your stomach full, your body won’t be able to reach a fasting state, and you’ll wake up hungry in the middle of the night. Don’t eat or drink anything except water for at least two hours before going to sleep.
3. Only use your bed for sleeping
It might just be pop psychology, but if you get used to doing other things in bed, even reading or watching TV, your mind might be confused as to what it’s supposed to be doing when bedtime comes around.
4. Don’t take a nap after 4 PM
Early afternoon naps are fine – and sometimes necessary – but going into Stage 4 deep sleep too late in the day will prevent your body from needing more sleep for several hours. It’s better to wake up too early and take a mid-morning nap.
5. Practice relaxation techniques
Even if you really hate yoga, do this: go to one class, ignore all the other stuff, and learn how to do the last pose, Savasana, or Corpse Pose. Whether or not you use visualizations, this is absolutely the best relaxation technique around, and it’s no more difficult than lying down and imagining.
6. Don’t go to bed angry
You’ll toss and turn and, if you do fall asleep, you’ll have nightmares. Tell the other person, “I know we love each other and we will work it out tomorrow.” It’s a huge step toward reconciliation, and your unburdened heart will float right off to dreamland.
7. Keep a journal
Record all the important things that happened during the day, and make a list of things that are nagging you. When your brain is sure that these thoughts have been recorded somewhere, it’ll finally get off that train track.
8. Don’t sleep on it
If there’s an important decision weighing on your mind, take ten minutes before bed to make a list of the pros and cons as fast as you can, and make an impulse decision based solely on that information. You can change your mind tomorrow, but at least your decision-maker will be turned off for the night.
9. Wake up at the same time every day
Studies show that sleeping in on the weekends can help you recover lost sleep from the week, but it can also throw next week’s sleep schedule out of whack. It’s better to regulate your sleep during the week than to catch up on the weekends.
10. Don’t go to bed if you’re not tired
Take a slow walk. Drink warm milk or watch the History channel or read Noam Chomsky. Over the course of your life, you have undoubtedly encountered at least one hundred and one things that are so boring that they’ll put you to sleep immediately. Use that information to your advantage.
Everyone’s different, but when it comes to sleep, we all need the same things: a dark room and a serene mind. Learn to control your environment to produce these things, and you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time. Sweet dreams!