Good sleep has a profound effect on our happiness and energy level. In Gretchen Rubin's book about habit change, Better Than Before, she identifies sleep as one of the elements of the “Strategy of Foundation,” the foundational habits that reinforce other behaviors. Lack of sleep has broad health consequences, such as raising our risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Good sleep also helps our immune system work effectively.
An added benefit of going to sleep on time? You're less likely to indulge in late-night snacking, which is a huge temptation for many people.
We need restful, restorative sleep—but it's often hard to get it.
9 tips if you have trouble falling asleep:
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. The regularity helps your body power down. Even when we don't have to be up at any particular time, our bodies do better with a routine.
- Set an alarm for sleep. If you have trouble getting yourself to move toward the bedroom, set a go-to-bed alarm on your phone to remind you to turn off the TV or the computer and head to bed.
- Listen to sleep-inducing podcast or re-listen to old episodes your favorite podcasts; you don't have to worry about missing anything, and it keeps your mind occupied in a very peaceful way.
- Get ready for bed well before you plan to turn off the light. Sometimes, if you feel too tired to get ready for bed, you end up just staying up later. Try to wash your face, put on your pajamas, and brush your teeth well before you plan to turn off the light.
- Cool off. Keep your bedroom chilly. On the other hand...
- If your feet are cold, put on socks.
- Get morning light. Research shows that getting sunlight helps to set our circadian rhythms.
- Exercise. People who exercise have an easier time falling asleep and staying asleep.
- Re-think your nap. For many people, naps are restorative and don't interfere with a good night's sleep. But if you're having trouble sleeping at night, and you're napping during the day, consider skipping the nap. Or at least take your nap before 5pm.
4 tips if you wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep:
- Make a list of the things that are worrying you. By writing down your concerns, you help your brain let go of them.
- Hide the clock. Nothing's worse than getting more and more stressed out by thinking of how much sleep you're missing.
- Get out of bed and do some light puttering for twenty minutes. No watching TV or checking emails—nothing that would wake up your brain—and keep the lights low.
- Stretch. This activity can relax your muscles and make you feel more comfortable in your body.
And of course, don't forget to follow the obvious rules that you already know:
- Don't drink caffeine after 3pm.
- Don't look at screens before bed.
- Don't check the news or email before bed.
- Skip the alcohol—it may help you fall asleep, but it actually interferes with restorative sleep.
Stress keeping you up? Check out The Emergency Kit for Anxiety, Worry, and Stress for more strategies.