Tired? Most of us are. With the pressures of everyday life and screens in our faces from the moment we wake up until our heads hit the pillow, there’s always something going on to distract us from one of the essentials of everyday life: sleep. We all know that sleep is necessary for maintaining productivity and health, and the Mayo Clinic suggests that we should be getting between 7-9 hours a night of good sleep. Sound impossible? You’re not alone, Americans get much less sleep than we did 40 years ago. Back then, we averaged 7.1 hours a night. Today, that’s dropped a full hour, to an average of 6.1 hours per night. Some of us get even less—30% of employed adults sleep only 6 hours or less daily. That’s scary—when you consider that fatigue and poor sleep can contribute to health problems, poor productivity, and workplace injuries. Here are just some of the issues insufficient sleep can cause:
- Moodiness & Depression
- Poor Memory & Cognitive Ability
- Weight Gain
- Type II Diabetes
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Weakened Immune System
As you can see, not getting enough sleep doesn’t just affect your productivity at work—it has a negative impact on nearly every area of your life. So how can you fix your sleep? Here are 5 great bedtime habits that will help you make the most of your shut-eye.
1. It’s Bedtime
The first sleep habit you’ll want to pick up is actually setting a bedtime—and sticking to it. You have to get up every morning at the same time anyway—why should bedtime be any different? Consider it part of your work routine, and you’re less likely to make excuses. Set your bedtime by counting back at least seven hours from when you get up and get used to the idea that you’ll need to get through an adjustment period. Once you’re used to going to bed at the same time, though, you’ll be glad you did.
2. Banish the Screens and Build a Ritual
It’s recommended that you turn off all screens and electronics a minimum of 60 minutes before you plan to go to sleep (bonus points if you can keep electronics out of your room altogether!). Use this time to create a ritual for yourself: brush and floss, wash your face, read a book to wind down (though not IN bed)—whatever works well to relax you. Light tricks the brain into believing you should be awake and alert, so keep the lighting soft. If you just can’t put your phone away at the end of the day, at least put it to good use and try one of the many sleep apps available. Artificial intelligence will analyze your sleep cycle and it is a great way recognize your habits while helping you decide how to tailor your sleep routines.
3. Create a Haven
A key to great sleep is a comfortable sleeping space—and you’re in control. Investing in a good mattress is your first step. Think about it—you’re going to be spending a third of each day in bed, so your mattress should be contributing to high-quality sleep. Get yourself some comfy pillows and quality bedding that makes you feel good.
Once you’ve got your bed under control, think about the light and air in your room. Do you need a fan or white noise machine? Is the temperature comfortable? Ideally, you’ll be sleeping in a cool, not cold room with no visible light, even from an alarm clock. An eye mask or ear plugs can help block out any unwanted distractions. If the humidity of the air is an issue, you may want to consider a humidifier or de-humidifier—depending on the condition of the air and the season. It’s all up to you!
4. Manage Your Meals
You shouldn’t be too hungry—or too full by the time it’s bedtime. Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine have negative effects on your sleep quality as well, so be sure you’re limiting these substances before bed. Harvard suggests avoiding caffeine for at least 4-6 hours before you intend to turn in for the night.
5. Tire Yourself Out
If you have trouble sleeping, you’ve got some work to do to establish a healthy routine. The first trick to try is simply tiring yourself out. Skip the naps, even when you feel like you need a quick pick-me-up—naps prevent consistency and can keep you from falling asleep.
Exercise does double duty: it tires you out and helps regulate your sleep over time. That’s one of the many reasons it is so important to establish a regular exercise program. Your body and mind will thank you—just be sure to get your workout in several hours before bed.