Getting at least 7 hours of restful sleep on a daily basis is absolutely necessary to your health and happiness.
Sadly, falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow rarely happens for anyone with a really full life. You go to bed with your mind buzzing with thoughts and ideas, you’re concerned about that to-do list you couldn’t quite finish and then, there are all these digital distractions that keep us up well into the night.
The first thing most of us do as soon as we leave our childhood is give-up our bedtime. We sleep when we feel like it and we wake-up forcefully and under protest. All of this is very unfortunate because getting good quality, restful sleep on a regular basis can change your life on ALL fronts. No exaggeration, I swear!
Here’s just a few areas of life impacted by sleep -
- Health and Fitness
- Cognitive abilities
- Learning and Skill Development
- Emotional balance
Getting onto a regular sleep schedule is no small task so, let me give you a good starting point.
Make it a little easier for you to fall into sleep by practicing a few simple rituals.
Instead of fighting a battle royale with your body and mind, just do any of these few things to ease away the stress and give your mind and body the relaxation it needs to fall asleep.
1. Give your day some sort of closure
You can use a journal to thought-dump. When nothing gets done right, we need to vent. Grab a journal and just spew out all your feelings. It will help you feel lighter and you’ll find it easier to push aside all the frustrations.
If you’re worried about an early appointment, do whatever is necessary to prevent a rushed morning. Lay out your dress, pack your lunch, sort out everything that will help you get out the door without any mishap.
Basically, no matter the day you’ve had, try to conclude it on a somewhat happier note.
2. Light Reading
Instead of scrolling on Instagram, do some light reading. Don’t read gripping murder mysteries or court room dramas, read something light and breezy. It will relax your mind and if it’s not something too interesting, your body will gradually wind down making it easier for you to fall asleep.
3. Use a sleep app
I love sleep Apps! They have soothing sounds like the sound of thunder (that’s soothing to me!), wind-chimes, or ocean waves. Some of these apps have stories narrated in a soft, calm voice. They have different meditations and breathing exercises. There are some really interesting programs that can even help you overcome insomnia.
Some of the best sleep apps are Calm, Relax melodies, Sleep Cycle, Pzizz. Do explore them to find one that matches your needs. On the face of it, the apps may not seem effective enough to help you sleep but I have found them to be helpful even on the most difficult, emotionally exhausting days.
If you suffer from anxiety, you might really enjoy playing some white noise in the background. There are A LOT of options to choose from. Imagine falling asleep to the sound of rain or waterfall or Matthew McConaughey narrating a bedtime story in his deep, husky voice (Calm sleep App).
You can program the app to turn itself off after a set period of time or as soon as the session (meditation, breathing, music) is over.
(If you do explore the world of sleep Apps and find your favourite, do share the name in the comments section or drop a message. If it’s different from the ones I have recommended in the post, I would love to explore it and so would the other readers, I am sure. )
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise
This is one of the best exercises to induce sleep. A lot of sleep experts recommend evening meditation but if you suffer from anxiety, you may not want to meditate before bedtime. It might be more stimulating than relaxing.
Related: Why Meditation May Not Be For You
Here's how Progressive Muscle Relaxation works -
Tense the individual muscle groups on your body, one at a time. Then, release the tension and notice how your muscles feel when you relax them. This exercise lowers the stress and tension in your body and it’s very effective for when you experience extreme anxiety. So, it’s useful for when you’re trying to relax enough to fall asleep.
Once you’re in bed, take 15 minutes to complete this exercise. Start from the top of your head and go over each individual muscle group. So, if you’re working on your forehead, raise your eyebrows as far as you can. Take a slow, deep breath as you do this. Do this for 5 seconds. Once the 5 seconds are up, relax the muscle, and exhale. You will feel the tension flow out. Move on to the next muscle group.
Take care to focus on only one muscle group at a time. Don’t clench any other part of your body, only the muscle that you’re focusing on. It becomes easier to do with practice. No part of this exercise should be painful.
5. Warm shower + Clean, crisp sheets
Our circadian rhythm that controls the sleep cycle, dictates our core body temperature throughout the day. At night, our body temperature goes down, signalling to our brain that it’s time to sleep leading to the release of meltaonin.
A warm shower can adds to the process. The warmth of the shower raises our body temperature but as we step out of it, our body instantly cools down which helps us sleep by relaxing our mind and body.
Also, if you’re as obsessed with hygiene as I am, that fresh, clean feeling really improves the mood. Add crisp, clean sheets to that and you’ll be asleep in no time. You should definitely try the combination of a warm shower and clean, cotton sheets for yourself.
Apart from these simple rituals, you may want to do a few other things to improve your sleep -
1. Make sure that you’re using the right mattress and pillows.
Explore different types of mattress and figure out which one suits your body best. Get cotton bed sheets and pillow covers that feel soft to your skin. While you’re at it, make sure to get cotton pajamas. Avoid synthetics such as polyester, they don’t breathe well and tend to trap heat and moisture.
Your pillow should be chosen based on your sleep position. Those who sleep on their back should use a thinner pillow with adequate neck support. If you’re a side sleeper, get a firmer pillow and as stomach sleepers should use a very thin or no pillow at all.
2. Lower the room temperature
The ideal sleep temperature is between 60-72 degree Fahrenheit. In a lot of cases, Insomnia may simply be caused by high room temperature. So, you may want to turn down the thermostat at night even if it means you use an extra layer of covering. If the inside of your room feels stale, you can open the windows for a few minutes to let some fresh air in. Trapped heat may make it difficult for you to breathe during the night which will obviously impact the quality of your sleep.
3. No stimulants past 6pm
Have your last cup of coffee at lunch time. Caffeine can keep you awake well past your bedtime so, try to have your much loved shot of caffeine several hours before bedtime.
More importantly, avoid alcohol. It may put you to sleep on time, but you’ll have a fragmented sleep which won’t be very restful. You’ll wake-up tired and moody.
4. Don’t nap too close to your bedtime or for more than 20 minutes
Make sleep optimization a priority. It really will elevate your life.
So, if you’re wondering how best to sleep better at night naturally, make sure to do a few rituals to ease out the stress and tension from your mind and body.
Practice journaling as an outlet for all unresolved emotions gathered during your waking hours. It will help release all emotional stress. Do whatever is necessary to avoid rushing in the morning. Knowing that you’re prepared and everything is in place will help you sleep easy.
Read something light and breezy to give yourself a few moments to disengage from the day and hopefully relax into a light slumber that gradually deepens into the restful sleep you need.
Consider your sleep issues and find a sleep app that may, using its unique programs, give you the tools you need to induce sleep. Or you may use exercises like progressive muscle relaxation as part of your pre-sleep ritual.
Try taking a warm shower every night to lower your core body temperature. This will signal to your brain that it’s bedtime leading to a release of the sleep inducing melatonin.
These were my tips to help you sleep better at night. Try to relax before bedtime so that instead of tossing and turning, you can fall into deep sleep without any struggle. It is imperative that you give you body and mind the rest it needs. If you’ve any questions and concerns or any tips, share them in the comments section.