You’re probably on-the-go from the moment you wake up until the time you collapse into bed and go to sleep. This approach to pushing yourself all day seems like it would be the right way to get the most done and exhaust yourself to sleep well. But what would you say if I told you that it’s actually keeping you from falling asleep?
An optimal way of going through your day is to have “sprints” (intensely focused concentration or mental/physical exertion where you are fully “on”) followed by brief periods of “recovery” (relaxation and energy replenishment to feel “off”). Recovery periods could simply be three minutes of deep breathing or three minutes of stretching. It could three minutes to make tea and mindfully sip it, or even a three-minute dance break!
When you exert energy and then follow it with a brief period of rejuvenation, these intermittent times of relaxation train your body to balance your on and off button. Research from the Energy Project shows that you will get more energy and feel calmer from this approach – yet you’ll be even more productive. When it comes time for sleep, your body will be used to the rhythm of being “on” and “off”, and it will make it much easier to ‘turn your brain off’ and feel sleepy.
Create a regular bedtime with a pre-sleep ritual
Sleep experts advise going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning – even on weekends. A regular sleep routine trains your body to know when to start winding down and when to rise up.
Establish a time for ‘screens off’. Then, have a window of time in which you start to calm your mind and body; slow down your pace, lower the lights, light a candle if appropriate. As you mindfully remove your clothes, drop the worries for the day as well, then prepare your clothes for the next day so you feel ‘ahead’.
Create a time and space for connection with whomever else shares your bedroom if you feel safe with that person. Have a pre-sleep ritual in which you share your day and tell each other what you appreciate about them. Reconnect to the physical touch that makes you feel calm and held.
Move your muscles
Exercise, including some vigorous exercise, improves the length and quality of your sleep. The stresses of your day can build up in your body, so exercise gets it all out! It stimulates longer periods of the deepest and most restorative stages of sleep. If possible, it’s best to exercise in the morning or during the day because aerobic exercise keeps your body temperature elevated (and burning calories and fat) for about four hours afterward. It’s also optimal for sleep when your body is cooled off. Walking, jogging and any form of sports or workouts are great, but even if you don’t have time, just going full out on a ‘dance break’ to your favorite tunes one to two times a day will serve this purpose.
Eat bedtime snacks that promote sleep
Some nighttime noshes can help you sleep and decrease mid-sleep waking. Try cherry juice, kiwis, turkey or walnuts – they keep the amino acid tryptophan working longer within your body and are natural sources of sleep-promoting hormones. You can also supplement with natural beverages. Chamomile is an excellent tea to have before bed, shown to calm the muscles and nervous system. Kava kava, the national drink of Fiji, has sedative properties and is commonly used to treat sleeplessness and fatigue.
Make your bedroom a palace for sleep
Start to remove things from your bedroom that emit an electromagnetic field. Research suggests that these waves impact us more than we think, and for some people, it can be an unexplained disruptor of sleep. Adjust your space to a cool temperature. Make the lighting softer or black out early morning sun if it wakes you up. If pets crowd you out of the bed, create better boundaries. When you get into bed, check in with your body. How do you feel? Which part of your body craves relaxation? Give that part of your body a massage or bring extra attention to relaxing those muscles. In short, examine the energy you create in your bedroom and ‘redecorate’ it into one that draws you into calm and sleep.