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I used to struggle so much with getting a good night’s sleep and I blamed a million different things. I’d protest that I’m simply a night owl and thus not meant to rise and shine all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but that’s not true. I’m not a night owl unless I’m fueled by coffee and bright lights. Honestly, on a normal night I’d probably be asleep by 10pm or 11pm if I didn’t have a to-do list that ran 12 miles long, bright lights on in the apartment, and at least 2 cups of full-caffeine coffee in my system. I’d blame the dogs for barking, my husband for being restless, my bladder for making me get up during the night, or anything else I could grasp at in a futile attempt to proclaim that not sleeping well was simply not my fault and therefore I was helpless to change it.
But, that’s not true.
Eventually (see: after about 10 years of living in a state of almost permanent exhaustion) I learned that I was capable of getting better sleep and that a good night’s sleep was completely attainable if I was willing to make a couple of changes to my home and my habits. Now that I’m finally sleeping well and waking up feeling rested, I wanted to share my top 3 tips to getting a good night’s sleep with you.
Create a consistent routine
Babies and children aren’t the only ones that need a routine! I used to think, “I’m an adult so I’ll go to bed when I’m good and tired #thankyouverymuch!” but I didn’t realize how much that was hurting my sleep habits. Turns out that keeping a consistent routine is just as important as an adult as it is when you’re a child. You need to train your body for sleep so that it becomes a natural response to stimuli and routine rather than something you try to force just because the clock says it’s late. To create a consistent routine so that you can get a good night’s sleep I recommend:
- Try to go to sleep at the same time every night
- Try to wake up at the same time every morning (if you’re tired from a late night out, wake up at the same time and opt for a 15-20 minute mid-day nap instead of sleeping in)
- Practice meditation, prayer, or other relaxation technique before bedtime
Build an environment conducive to sleep
I used to be able to fall asleep anywhere. I was that person. My family used to joke that I could sleep in the middle of a hurricane and even though they were kidding it wasn’t far from the truth. As I grew older that became more of a problem for me and I found myself struggling to sleep in strange environments, while in transit (in a car or on a plane), or any place that wasn’t my own bed. It wasn’t until I found myself struggling to sleep in my own bed that I admitted I had a sleep problem. I’m not really one for medication so I refused any sleep aid when it was offered and chose instead to use my sleep struggles as an excuse to remodel and redecorate our bedroom a bit. To build a strong sleep-inducing environment you should:
- Enhance your exposure to light by seeking out bright well-lit spaces when you first wake-up and throughout the day. Open the windows, go outside, and encourage bright lights which stimulate your mind and encourage wakefulness.
- Minimize your exposure to light at night by minimizing screen usage, turning down lights, and closing curtains. Your brain naturally secretes melatonin when it’s dark which, in turn, makes you drowsy.
- Minimize noise in your bedroom by turning off any noisy devices and setting your phone to restricted hours. If you can’t minimize all noise (neighbors, traffic, etc) try using a white noise machine.
- Turn on your overhead fan and, if you don’t have one, get one installed. An overhead fan keeps the air circulating and help to cool down the room, both of which encourage better sleep.
- Buy a new mattress or add a foam topper to your existing mattress if you find yourself tossing or turning throughout the night or waking up with a sore back. Everyone requires different levels of firmness or softness to sleep well and you may need to make adjustments to your current arrangement. You can find the perfect mattress for you right here on Nest Bedding. You should also stay out of your bed unless you’re sleeping or having sex because restricting the reasons you use the bed help train your brain to know that being in bed means you’re about to do one of two things. No reading, watching TV, or other activities allowed.
- Replace your bedding (this includes your comforter, sheets, and pillows). These items can wear out quickly due to use and should be replaced when they show heavy wear. You should also be washing them regularly. Our sheets and pillowcases (anything that touches skin) are washed weekly while other bed linens are washed monthly. I replace our pillows once a year and buy a new comforter every 4 – 5 years depending on use (but we have dogs so do a little research to find out how often you should replace yours). My current white ruffled comforter is from Lush Decor!
- Refresh your bedding and pillows with a clean deodorizing mist when you’re making the bed or folding it down for sleep. I like to quickly mist my pillows and sheets with the Sunset Cotton Air Wick mist because it doesn’t leave a wet residue like other sprays and it keeps things smelling crisp and clean when I’m tucked in to bed.
Monitor your food + drink intake and exercise habits
Heyyyy late-night snackers, raise your hand! Yep, me too. I wasn’t too bad about it until we moved to Atlanta but it seems that late nights are a typical thing around here. By the time we are home from work and we sit down for dinner it’s usually at least 7pm or so. We will clean up the kitchen, walk the dogs a final time, and settle down for the evening just to realize it’s already after 9pm. It’s easy to get snacky when you finally find yourself able to binge on a little bit of Netflix or a horror movie (my favorite!).
Finding time to exercise is hard although I know I could go after 9pm but frankly by that time of night I’m lazy. I’ve learned to get creative with my workouts (like I shared here) because I know that I sleep better on the days I workout. Exercise is reported to improve the symptoms associated with insomnia and increases the time you spend in the deep stages of sleep which lead to you feeling rested when you wake up. To make sure that your food and drink intake and exercise habits are leading to quality sleep you should:
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, even if it’s just walking or pedaling at your desk. It can take a couple of months before you feel the full effect so be patient and stick with it.
- Finish any type of intense workout at least 3 hours before bedtime so the increase in your metabolism and body temperature doesn’t keep you up. If you’re exercising right before bed, try something that is low impact, like yoga. I like to do yoga at home using yogadownload.com.
- Minimize caffeine after 12pm noon. I know, I know, #coffee but seriously try to cut it out because caffeine intake can affect your sleep for up 12 hours after drinking it. Try drinking coffee in the morning and water for the rest of the day. You can also use a water bottle like this one (my favorite!) to infuse fruit or vegetables with your water for flavor. I love to infuse cucumber in mine because it’s great for your skin and immune system too.
- Avoid eating after 8pm and especially avoid eating anything heavy, rich, or spicy because those types of food can lead to heartburn, stomach troubles, and nightmares which keep you up at night. Eat those foods prior to 8pm and drink plenty of water afterward. If you have to eat after 8pm, try a light snack like a small bowl of non-sugary cereal, granola, yogurt, or fruit. I love to eat a bowl of banana, blueberries, and granola when I want a late night snack.
If you find yourself having trouble sleeping, give my tips up above a try and see if they make a difference for you. They definitely changed how Brandon and I sleep! I feel like I’m finally getting actual rest when I sleep at night and I’m waking up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day. I’m not a morning person and I don’t believe I ever will be but I definitely find myself feeling rested in the morning and that’s a huge difference from how I was feeling before.
If you have any other tips to help sleep, I’d love to hear them!