Proper rest is foundational to your health and well-being. Just like everything else in life, successful sleeping habits take practice and commitment. Most adults need six to eight hours of quality shut-eye per night; if you fall shy of these requirements, try these tips to start sleeping better—as soon as this evening.
Establish your routine
Same bat place, same bat time—every night, replay a consistent wind-down routine. Creating a buffer from the noise of your day helps prepare your body for the restorative night’s sleep ahead. Listen to music, read a book, or try gentle stretches or yoga. Taking a warm bath or shower is another tried-and-true nocturnal routine—not only does a warm soak set a soothing tone, it also produces a desirable cooling affect as you exit the water (our bodies naturally cool overnight during inactivity; accordingly, a drop in body temperature, like the one you experience when bath water evaporates from your skin, is shown to correlate with sleepiness as your body prepares for an upcoming period of rest (Campbell, 1994)).
Once in bed, if thoughts of tomorrow’s to-do list race through your head, keep a pen and paper handy to jot down your agenda; a recent study showed that this simple activity helps people fall asleep an average of nine minutes faster as compared to journaling about the day you just completed (Scullin, 2018). It’s also important to keep a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, including weekends.
Set the mood
Your environment impacts how you sleep. To optimize rest, cool the room in which you sleep and make it as dark and quiet as possible. Remove unnecessary distractions—limit screentime for the hour or two before you go to sleep and charge electronic devices away from your bedside. If you end up tossing and turning, simply get out of bed and return when you feel tired. Keeping a close association between lying in bed and swiftly falling asleep will set you up for continued success.
Exercise in the morning or afternoon
Regular exercise releases hormones that aid in sleep regulation. But, timing is key, and early morning workouts are recommended to reduce the risk of overstimulation too close to bedtime. (For an added benefit, some studies link pre-breakfast workouts to optimal weight loss and overall health benefits (Iwayama, 2014)). If you feel the itch to move before settling down, incorporate gentle yoga and evening stretches into your bedtime routine to help release the tension of your day.
Reduce or eliminate caffeine, alcohol, and sugar in the evening.
The reason behind cutting caffeine before bed is likely clear. Avoiding alcohol, on the other hand, may seem counterintuitive as it is a depressant. But, while alcohol may help you fall to sleep, it can impact the quality of your rest by making it uneasy and fitful.
Timing your nighttime meals and snacks also matters. Avoid heavy meals two to three hours before bedtime—so your body can truly rest as opposed to spending energy digesting. If you need a nighttime nosh, limit your intake of grains and sugary snacks, as these foods can raise your blood sugar and potentially delay sleep onset.
As you practice these tips and better sleep habits, you’ll soon see the positive effects of quality rest rippling throughout your life. Working with a health coach to personalize a sleep plan and other lifestyle optimizations can significantly improve your progress. Learn more about Vori Health customized care plans and get the rest your body deserves.