Been tossing and turning too much in bed? Waking up too many times during the night?
If you are nodding in agreement and exasperation, don’t despair. You are not alone in your sleep woes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. And it is a problem!
You need to prepare both your mind and body for a good night’s sleep. Here’s where sleep habits come into play. These are as fundamental as eating five servings of greens every day and drinking eight glasses of water daily.
Below are 7 healthy sleep habits that ensure you get your quota of beauty sleep.
Meditation practitioners had known it all along. Now science has proven that regular meditation indeed calms a person and helps him relax.
According to scientists at Stanford University, regular meditation practitioners have slower breathing patterns compared to those who do not meditate regularly. We all tend to breathe shallow and gulp for air when we are tense and stressed, so slow breathing is a sign that you are internally calm.
According to the findings of a study published in the Harvard Health Blog, meditation can ease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
And here’s the clincher. The findings of a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine clearly state that meditating regularly improves the quality of sleep in people who experience sleep disturbances.
Controlling the mind is not easy. The human mind has a tendency to flit from one thought to another, never letting you analyze what you are feeling and why you are feeling the way you are. The result: a mind that is constantly on the edge and stressed out.
An anxious person stresses about not being able to go to sleep. He tries to fall asleep, and then frets and fumes because he cannot. But worrying never resolved an issue, so “trying hard” to fall asleep also doesn’t bring on slumber. A guided meditation track helps you relax and be realistic, focused, and analytical, so you can let go of the need to fall asleep. With the Meditable meditation app around, you can ease into the meditative process whenever you want to.
The benefits of regular physical exercise are well-documented. But not many people know that regular moderate physical activity helps you fall asleep quickly and sleep deeply through the night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, even as little as 10 minutes of exercise during the day can improve the quality of sleep by several notches.
But here’s a warning. Exercising too close to bedtime is usually counterproductive for most people. Strenuous workouts over-stimulate you, making it harder for you to doze off. However, gentle stretching exercises before bedtime are relaxing and usually don’t interfere with your shut-eye.
3. Avoiding caffeine and heavy meals just before bedtime
Your cup of joe gives you an energy boost when you are starting your day, but you wouldn’t want to be too alert and stimulated just before you hit the sack. Caffeine, which includes coffee, some blends of tea, and coffee-flavored foods like yogurt, messes up with your body’s ability to fall off to sleep naturally.
A heavy meal just before bedtime gets your body into high gear. The metabolic system kicks into action to digest the food, and the result is that you do not get a restful night’s sleep. Experts advise that you do not eat a heavy meal at least two to three hours before bedtime.
4. Limiting digital activities before hitting the sack
Tapping on your laptop keyboard and peering into your smartphone before bedtime ruin your sleep. The culprit is the blue light that smartphones, tablets, and laptops emit. This light signals to the brain that it is morning and time to wake up.
5. Creating a physical environment conducive to sleep
Make sure your bedroom promotes sleep and not hamper it.
The mattress should be comfortable, not too hard and neither too soft.
Human beings sleep best in total darkness. But if you prefer to have a light on while you sleep, use dim lights or keep a bulb switched on in the bathroom or the hallway instead of in the bedroom.
Every one adjusts differently to temperature. But as a rule, human beings do not sleep well in extreme temperatures. So adjust the thermostat or the air conditioner accordingly.
Make sure the room is quiet. Some people fall asleep quicker with soft music playing in the background, but louder music, a sports commentary running on at a high pitch, or the thundering sounds from an action movie usually keep most people from falling asleep. Listening to a meditation track is an excellent way to calm the mind and slip into restful sleep.
6. Creating a habit of not taking your to-do list for the next day to bed
In these hyper-competitive times, we usually lie awake worrying about what we are going to do the next day. There are unfinished projects, looming deadlines, inconsiderate bosses, and workplace challenges to tackle the next day. You worry about not being able to keep up with the clock hands. You wonder if your strategies are correct. You are anxious about missing the fine print or blundering in some other way. It’s a long to-do list, enough to keep you awake, tossing and turning for hours on end.
Spare yourself these bedtime mental hassles, and do a bout of problem-solving earlier in the evening. Make some time and plan your next day in advance. Make a list of all that you want to accomplish. Then edit the list to make it realistic (with a capital R). Mull over your tasks, and ensure you allot adequate time to complete each comfortably.
Jot down any problems that might crop up during the day, and reflect on how you can resolve the issues. Think about the resources you have and the people you can turn to for help. List these as well.
Then note down what you want to remember the next day. Unload your mental reminders and set up alerts on your phone instead.
The goal of this entire planning and problem-solving exercise is to empty your mind and let it relax. When you prepare a plan and write it down, you can rest easy knowing that you will iron out all creases and that there is nothing to worry about. You can be at peace knowing that you have a solution for every challenge that might arise the next day.
7. Going to sleep only when you feel sleepy
You can fall asleep only when you are sleepy. You cannot force yourself to sleep. So go to bed only when you are sleepy.
While it is a good practice to go to bed and wake up at the same time on most days, every day is not the same. If you are excited, agitated, or have been doing Zumba at 7 p.m., it is likely that you won’t feel sleepy at 10 p.m. So don’t stress by forcing yourself to fall asleep. Adopt the letting-go attitude.
If it is past your bedtime and you are not sleepy, let it be. Tell yourself it is okay that you cannot go to sleep. Engage in some relaxing activity and forget all about not being able to sleep.
Likewise, if you have gone to bed but find yourself unable to doze off after 20 minutes, get up and do something else instead of lying awake and wondering (read: stressing) why you can’t sleep. Find some relaxing activity and focus on that. Let go of the need to fall asleep right then.
It is reassuring to know that getting a restful night’s sleep is easy if you adhere to healthy sleep habits. Forming habits and sticking to them requires a disciplined mind till the habits become second nature. This is where meditation comes into play. Meditation helps you stay focused, shut out distractions, and concentrate on being in the present moment and doing what must be done.