Oh, sleep. Most of us want more of it, and many of us have a hard time getting it.
Sleep is pretty important for a variety of reasons. In addition to making you feel like a functioning human being, sleep helps us rebuild and repair cells, boost our immune system, lower inflammation, and increase productivity and concentration.
If you don’t get enough sleep, you run a higher risk for getting sick, having mental health and emotional challenges, and just overall not feeling too good. It’s amazing just how many instances of generally not feeling well can be traced back to not enough sleep.
We’re so busy these days that it can definitely be challenging to get a good night’s sleep. With all the homework, extracurriculars, and family obligations, sometimes we feel like we can’t get it all done. And if we do manage to get it done, sometimes we just want to stay up for a couple more hours to enjoy some Netflix or get caught up on our social media accounts.
It can definitely feel like a dilemma. But the good news is there are steps you can take to help you get a good night’s rest so you can both feel good and do all the things like a champ the following day.
- Ban electronics from the bedroom. We know, we’re coming out of the gate strong on this one. But hear us out. As tempting as it is to catch up on your watch lists and text chains, your use of electronics keeps your brain on alert when it really needs to be winding down. (And if you happen to hear about new and exciting gossip, then you’ll be up for awhile.) On top of that, the light exposure from screens also disrupts cues from your brain that try to tell your body to wind down. If there’s no electronics, there’s no temptation.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Like most habits, starting is the hardest part. But once you get into a rhythm, you will be amazed at how quickly your body gets into a routine. Studies have shown it’s not just the total amount of sleep in a week that matters, but how consistent your patterns are. For example, under-sleeping some days and over-sleeping on other days doesn’t restore your body as much as sleeping the same amount every day. If you want to go to sleep earlier, start by trying to go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual, and continuing that pattern until you find the times that work best for you.
- Don’t procrastinate on important tasks. We know, easier said than done. Between your schoolwork, your hobbies, your friends, and your family commitments, it’s easy to feel behind. And if one of those things you need to do isn’t particularly fun or appealing, it’s easy to put it off until the last possible minute. But guess what? When you do that, aside from being stressed out, you will likely stay up way later than normal and not get the sleep your body needs. Your work won’t be your best, and you will feel terrible the next morning. Seems like a lose-lose, doesn’t it? Whenever you get an important task, try to break it up into smaller easy-to-manage steps so you never get to the point of an all-nighter.
- Make a routine. In addition to turning off and banning electronics like your phone and laptop, consider what other activities might help you wind down. Maybe a nighttime bath or shower helps you relax and gets you into a sleepy mindset. If you have pets that get excited and interfere with your sleep, consider putting them in another room for the night. If you like aromatherapy, explore which essential oils can help you relax. (Lavender, for example, is a favorite for sending people off to dreamland and is actually found in many baby products.)
- Limit caffeine. There’s no doubt that caffeine is found in many delicious things. The downside to that is that some folks are REALLY sensitive to caffeine, and their bodies can still feel the effects even hours after consuming a product containing it. Try to avoid energy drinks, which are known to be loaded with caffeine. If you like to drink coffee, try to avoid drinking any after lunchtime as the caffeine may get in the way of you falling asleep. A cup of tea can sometimes be a nice soothing touch to help you go to sleep, but if you notice it actually interferes with your sleep, only drink it in the mornings. If you aren’t sure how your body responds to caffeine, this will be a little bit of trial and error. Just be sure to pay attention to what you consume and how your body reacts, and you’ll have the information you need in no time.
These are some great hacks to try if you feel like you have room to improve with your sleep. That said, if you feel like you are trying a lot of these tips and nothing is working, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss more. Occasionally underlying conditions like depression or sleep apnea can cause sleep trouble, and for those instances, it is really helpful to have a professional give you special guidance that works specifically for you.