Your mood isn’t the only thing improved by a good night’s sleep. Sleep can help enhance your memory and decision-making ability, plus it will help you maintain good physical health and lower your risk of injury. Here’s what you can do to maximize the benefits you get from better sleep:
- Establish Routine: Your body craves stability when it comes to setting a sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (yes, even on the weekend) so you can spend less time tossing and turning before finally falling asleep at night.
- Exercise Regularly: Studies show that people who exercise on a regular basis report higher sleep quality. However, avoid rigorous exercise late in the evening because that can wake up your body when it should be relaxing.
- Make a To-Do List: If your head is spinning with thoughts about what you need to do the next day, try creating a physical list of everything you want to accomplish. If it’s written down, you can clear your mind and focus instead on getting a good night’s sleep.
- Take a Cool Shower or Bath: A hot shower might sound relaxing, but warm water can actually raise your body temperature which is a signal that it’s time to wake up. As we fall asleep, our body temperature decreases, so a cooler (but not alarmingly cold) bath will help speed up the process.
- Open the Curtains: Let in the sunlight first thing in the a.m. so your brain knows that it’s time to wake up! Sunlight will help you feel more alert and positive about your morning so you’re less likely to hit snooze.
- Try Meditation Practices: Help your mind and body relax in the evening with mindfulness exercises that help you let go of stressful thoughts and behaviors. Download a guided meditation app if you aren’t sure where to begin.
- Nap in the Evening: You may feel exhausted after a hard day’s work, but it’s much better to institute an earlier bedtime instead of taking that nap before dinner. (How to Master the Art of Napping)
- Use Bright Lights and Technology: Harsh overhead lights and screens put strain on your eyes and prevent your natural circadian rhythm from acknowledging that it’s time for bed. Rather, try reading a relaxing book before bed.
- Drink Caffeinated Beverages After Lunch: Caffeine stays in your system long after you’ve noticed the effects wear off. An afternoon latte can be disrupting your sleep more than you realize.
- Use a Nightcap: Alcohol may help people fall asleep faster, but during the night it actually disrupts sleep and prevents you from getting the full benefits of your REM cycles. Avoid alcohol after dinner.
- Eat a Large Snack: When you go to bed with a full stomach, you are more likely to have bad dreams. Sugary foods will also give you a “sugar high” which will make it harder to relax.
- Stare at the Alarm Clock: If you’re concerned that you aren’t getting enough sleep, try to avoid checking your alarm clock or phone every five minutes. Instead, get out of bed and do something relaxing (meditation or reading) for 15 minutes before going back to bed.