Well-rested folks are known to be more alert and creative, less stressed and stronger in their relationships. Want in? The savviest sleepers swear by these simple tips.
1. Snack Attack
Late-night noshing often gets blamed for widening waistlines, but a light snack before bed can actually boost your metabolism—and improve your quality of sleep. Munching on a 200-calorie high-carb, low protein snack about an hour before hitting the hay will keep hunger signals at bay and help you sleep soundly through the night. Complex carbohydrates are your best bet for a night-cap snack, experts suggest, as they’re easier to digest and may boost your level of sleep-inducing tryptophan. Try whole grain toast with a little peanut butter or a bowl of cereal with skim milk.
2. Sleep Scents
Lavender, jasmine, rose… these renowned relaxers have been shown to clear the mind, soothe the nerves and even lower blood pressure. Try spritzing a calming linen spray on your pillow, lighting a relaxing candle or positioning a diffuser on your nightstand.
3. Get Moving
Regular exercise yields a ton of health benefits, and enhanced sleep quality is among them. A good old-fashioned sweat-fest can ease the transition to sleep, increase sleep duration and even decrease daytime fatigue. In one study, participants who exercised 150 minutes a week (or about 20 minutes a day) experienced 65 percent better sleep than their less-rested cohorts.
If your energy levels tend to spike after exercise, try working out in the morning or at least two hours before your usual bedtime.
Desk-bound during the day? Find ways to sneak in a few minutes of activity at a time—park a little further away from the office, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or slip out for a brisk walk on your lunch break.
4. Deep Breathing
There’s a reason yogis practice this centuries-old relaxation method. Deep breathing lowers blood pressure, clears the mind and calms the central nervous system. As you wind down for the night, try this easy-to-follow technique: breathe in through your nose for a count of four, hold the breath for a count of seven and exhale through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat the sequence four times, and soon you’ll be de-stressed and ready for rest.
5. Write it Out
Stresses from the day have a knack for following us into the night. To combat anxiety-induced insomnia, experts suggest jotting down any concerns, questions or to-dos a few hours before turning out the lights. By writing out your worries, you give your mind permission to let them go, making way for a more peaceful shut-eye session.
6. Soak in the Sun
Experts recommend soaking up 20-30 minutes of bright early-morning sunlight each day to reset the body’s internal clock and reinforce its natural sleep-wake cycle. Light sends a signal to the brain that it’s time to be awake, which eases the transition to sleep when the lights go out. For best results, aim to get a dose of daylight between the hours of 6 and 8:30 AM, when the sun is at its brightest, and go sunglasses-free to ensure your exposure is uninterrupted.
7. Be Phone Smart
Many of us are accustomed to winding down with a smart phone or tablet in hand, but the bright light emitted by these gadgets has been shown to interfere with the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. Add stimulating activities like checking email or watching an action-packed TV show to the mix, and your mind can stay stuck in overdrive for hours after you’ve powered down. Do your best to banish electronics from the bedroom, and ask your sleep partner to do the same.
8. Sleep Sober
The calming power of alcohol may lull you to sleep initially, but halfway through a sleep cycle, dehydration and alcohol withdrawal hit hard, causing you to miss out on valuable minutes of REM sleep, the phase thought to be most restorative for the body and mind.
Do your best to avoid consuming alcohol within a few hours of bedtime, limit your number of drinks, and aim to match each alcoholic beverage with a glass of water to offset dehydration.
9. Caffeine Conscious
There’s nothing like a hot mug of coffee or tea to perk you up first thing in the morning. But when consumed too late in the day, caffeine can wreak major havoc on your sleep schedule. Aim to enjoy your last caffeinated cup four to six hours before bedtime, and be sure to avoid caffeine-laced foods, like chocolate, by that time as well.