by Lindsay Miller
What if time doesn’t really age you? What if the cause of “aging” had to do more with how we actually treat ourselves, what we put in our bodies and how much sleep we are getting?
Today, most people associate less sleep with more productivity. However, getting seven to eight hours of quality Zs at night might just be the secret to a productive day, week, month, and life. For all you go-getters out there pulling all-nighters and downing caffeine-filled energy drinks, to say you’ll “sleep when you’re dead” is a rather ironic analogy. Superior sleep has been scientifically proven to promote the longevity of your life, but it has become a lost art.
We prepare for everything we do during the day—work, school, a blind date, dinner with the family—but when was the last time you prepared to go to bed? In fact, sleeping could very well be the most important part of your day. Your body needs time to recover, restore nutrients and prepare itself for the next day. Sleep deprivation has also been known to lead to certain types of cancer, spikes in heart disease risk, depression, and weight gain.
Sounds like this might be your ultimate wake up call. Still want to sleep when you’re dead? Here are five ways to help you get the best sleep you’ve ever had.
MAKE IT A ROUTINE
Going to bed at the same time every night allows your body to wind down and wake up in a routine fashion. Often surrounding your circadian rhythm, make your bed time a habit. Ideally, your body starts to wind down when the sun goes down, but 9 p.m. is a good target. You’re body goes into an alert state around 10 p.m. In this stage, it starts to search for nutrients in order to fuel itself.
This action commonly triggers hunger, leading us to the fridge for a late night snack. Give yourself around 30 minutes to detox all the social media, Netflix, and stress out of your system before really expecting to fall asleep. Your body needs time to relax. Once you have a set bedtime, enforce the same time every night. I highly suggest a lavender-scented bath or decaffeinated green tea with honey to get you ready.
WORK IT OUT
While we could debate for days the correct time we should be working out—whether it’s a morning yoga session or evening trip to the gym—exercising at some point during your day is better than not at all, and it can be an important stress reliever. Give yourself a boost of energy before work to kickstart your morning. If your schedule only allows an evening sweat session, try to make it at least three hours before your bedtime. Your body needs time to cool down and relax before rebooting overnight.
TUNE OUT TEMPTATATIONS
Like a fully charged cell phone, we tend to start our day with a strong bar of willpower. As the day progresses, each temptation, treat, or distraction chisels away at our battery life. It takes a lot of determination and self-control to change a pattern. If you want to nurture your health and happiness, there are certain habits to break that will help you gain better sleep. Most importantly, shut off technology 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. Not only do your eyes need time to adjust back to the real world, but so does your mind. Create a peaceful environment for optimum rest and relaxation.
Want an even better night’s sleep? Remove cell phones from the bedroom. Period. Let’s be honest, if wondering how many likes your last post on Instagram received is keeping your eyes open at night, it might be time for some serious social media rehab.
KNOW YOUR SLEEP NUMBERS AND SETTING THE MOOD
Do you know how many hours of sleep you need each night to be the best version of yourself? Having this ammo in your tool kit isn’t easy. Coffee, energy drinks, alcohol, and light from your smartphone can interfere with your circadian rhythm. Try removing all inhibitors for ten days and see how well your sleep cycle changes. To set the mood, researchers advise keeping the thermostat between 68 and 72 degrees during slumber. Colder temperatures induce a sense of deeper sleep. Warmer temperatures can bring about night sweats, interrupting your REM cycles.
With the amount of external “noise” in our lives today, most people would cringe to sit by themselves in silence for a few minutes. When practiced daily, however, meditation can improve your health, stress, and sleep patterns. Ten minutes in the morning and night is all it takes to see improvements. Try closing your eyes and practicing the rising and the falling of your breath. Let go of anything that is making you tense and let your muscles relax. Every wonder why it takes your massage therapist four or five requests to get your muscles to relax? It’s because we’ve forgotten how to wind down. These few moments are just for you and can get you ready for a tranquil night of rest.