Advice about sleeping usually starts with telling you to go to bed and wake up on a consistent schedule. In reality that’s much easier said than done.
If you have a day job, you pretty much have to get up when the alarm goes off. On the other hand, your bedtime is up to you, and that’s where your plans may go awry.
For all your good intentions, you find yourself binge watching the new season of House of Cards or shopping for wine online until the wee hours. Then, you feel rotten the next day at work, and resolve to turn over a new leaf. Unfortunately, you spend the next night chatting on the phone with your old college roommate.
What you need are new habits to break the cycle. Check out this list of things you can do to help you go to bed earlier and wake up fresh in the morning.
Things to Do Before You Go to Bed
1. Be specific. You’re more likely to succeed if you aim to go to bed at a certain hour rather than leaving the timetable vague. Count back 7 or 8 hours from the time you need to wake up.
2. Greet the sun. Light has a powerful impact on your brain. Exposure to morning sun will make you more alert and sync your internal clock so that you’ll be drowsier later in the evening.
3. Turn off electronic devices. Turn off your computer and TV at least an hour before bed. You’ll sleep better if you avoid lighted screens and mental stimulation.
4. Create rituals. Engage in activities you’ll associate with going to bed. Take a warm bath and put on your pajamas. Drink a cup of herbal tea or moisturize your feet.
5. Limit caffeine and alcohol. Coffee and cocktails could keep you up at night and interfere with the quality of your sleep. Have your last cup of java before 2 pm, and skip the nightcaps.
6. Turn down overtime. Studies show that working 50 hours or more a week dramatically impairs your sleep and productivity. You’ll feel happier and accomplish more if you leave the office at a reasonable hour.
7. Resist napping. While naps are usually an effective way to catch up on the rest you need, you want to stay awake while you’re adapting to a new schedule. If you’re struggling to keep your eyes open, remember that the discomfort is temporary.
Things to Do After You Go to Bed
1. Stop worrying. Many adults with insomnia actually sleep more than they realize. It’s natural to wake up periodically during the night.
2. Try meditation. Deep meditation has many of the same health benefits as sleeping. Repeat a mantra or focus on your breathing while you’re waiting to drift off.
3. Grab a pillow. Maybe an aching back or stiff shoulders are making you toss and turn. Until you buy a new mattress, your old pillows can help. If you sleep on your side, put a cushion between your knees to align your hips. When you’re on your back, support your spine by placing a pillow under your thighs.
4. Set interim goals. Ultimately, you want to sleep through the night, but you can start off gradually. Promise yourself you’ll spend 30 minutes in bed. If you’re still wide awake, go do something boring until you’re ready to come back for another half hour.
Sleep plays an essential role in your health and wellbeing. You’ll thank yourself in the morning when you start going to bed on time.