Sleep is the secret weapon to success. Too many people are under the misguided belief that if they sacrifice a few hours of rest, they’ll be able to get more done—whether that’s working toward a strict project deadline or tackling the pile of laundry on your list of chores.
“If I can just get this thing off my plate, I’ll be able to sleep better with my mind at ease and set myself up for success tomorrow!”
Sound familiar? It’s a common line of thought, but it can’t be farther from the truth. When you’re sleep deprived, your performance suffers at work, home, and in your personal relationships. Focus and memory are impaired, patience is thin, stress feels palpable, and emotions can become unhinged.
That’s not to mention the toll lack of sleep takes on your physical health in addition to your mental well-being; without enough rest, your immune system becomes compromised, making you more susceptible to illness. And if you catch a cold, you’ll fall even farther behind, sacrifice more sleep to get back on track, and continue running this never-ending hamster wheel until you’re downright exhausted and ready to implode.
Getting a good night’s sleep should be one of your top priorities, so if you find yourself lacking those eight hours of prescribed z’s, use these tips to improve the quantity and quality of your essential shuteye.
Pinpoint the Problem
What’s keeping you up at night? Maybe it’s the million-and-one things on your to-do list, or the pressure you’re feeling from your boss at the office. Anxiety is another common culprit behind tossing and turning at night, same with subpar mattresses standing in the way of a comfortable slumber.
Before you can improve your sleeping habits, you’ll first need to identify the obstacles obstructing you from a good night’s rest.
Make the Adjustments
Here are a few common reasons for why many people lack the sleep they need, followed with some adjustments you can make if they apply to you, too:
- Uncomfortable bed(ding) – Your bed is the basic foundation for a full night’s rest, and some mattresses will serve you better than others. Everyone has their own personal preference on the right amount of firmness or softness but sleeping on top of a lousy box spring will do you (and your back!) no good. The linens you choose are equally important—because nobody enjoys waking up in the middle of the night like a hot, sweaty mess.
- Stress and/or anxiety – One of the hardest parts about falling asleep is getting your ever-rambling mind to shut itself up, and if you suffer from stress or anxiety, you know firsthand how hard that can be. If compartmentalizing your problems at bedtime seems impossible, try falling asleep to a guided meditation to soothe your brain to sleep.
- Noise – Newborn baby, loud neighbors, a snoring husband—whatever sound impairs your sleep, a white noise machine can help you drown it all out (and don’t forget about old-fashion earplugs should you need even more silence!)
- Insomnia – Sometimes, no matter what you do, it can feel as though you’re destined to chase the pillow all night. Weighted blankets are very helpful for sleep disorders, but we’ll go over a few more sleep-promoting strategies in the section below.
Train Your Body to Turn Down
If you’re used to staying up well past midnight, you’ll probably need to train your body to turn down a little earlier than it’s used to. Staring at the ceiling at night? Try these methods to drift off to sleep sooner:
- Set an alarm – In addition to your wakeup call, try setting a reminder for bed that signals you to begin your nightly routine (brush your teeth, change into PJs, etc.). Gradually set this earlier and earlier as you inch toward your targeted bedtime.
- Cut the lights – Our bodies evolved with a fine-tuned circadian rhythm, which induces tiredness based on light receptors in our eyes. Improve your sleep environment by turning the lights down well before it’s time to hit the hay—including the blue light cast off your phone, laptop, or television.
- Take melatonin – Melatonin is the brain chemical responsible for that sleepy feeling we just mentioned, but you can take give your body a boost with melatonin supplements if your sleep schedule is seriously out of whack.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be counting sheep in no time.