We all experience the occasional sleepless night, but when infrequent insomnia turns into a chronic problem, it’s time to find ways to get some shut-eye. Here are five simple ways to improve the quality of your sleep.
Quiet your concerns with positive thinking
Do you toss and turn at night, fretting over things you didn’t get done during the day or feeling weighed down by issues with family, health, work or finances? Positive psychology expert Shawn Anchor, author of the New York Times best-seller The Happiness Advantage, recommends taking control of your worries with positive thinking. “If you are staying up thinking about things you didn’t do before going to sleep, write a list of things you are stressed about and concrete things you can do about each one, then circle one concrete action to do tomorrow,” he explains. “This will quiet a part of your brain called the amygdala, which is associated with negative emotion and keeping you awake.” He also suggests focusing your thoughts on things for which you are grateful when you lie down to sleep — you’ll be more able to fall asleep thinking positively than if you’re focusing on the negative aspects of your day.
Unplug and become a sleep superstar
It may be tempting to curl up with your iPad with the intent to read a good book, but chances are you’ll end up tweeting about your favorite chapter, checking status updates on Facebook and pinning midnight snack ideas on Pinterest. Healthy living expert Sadie Nardini, host of Rock Your Yoga on the healthy living TV network Veria Living, says to ditch the technology and get to sleep. “There’s a time and place for emails, checking texts and working on your computer, and it’s not right before bedtime,” she warns. “Doing any of this can actually stimulate your central nervous system and signal your body that it’s time to fight or flight, not rest and digest.” The yoga pro recommends making a No Tech Rule starting one hour before you want to go to sleep. “Turn off your technology and make the segue to slumber by taking a warm bath, reading a real book or spending quality time with your partner.”
Avoid food before bed
“Contrary to popular belief, eating before bed will not lead to weight gain — but it will disrupt your sleep,” says registered holistic nutritionist Peggy Kotsopoulos, host of Kitchen Cures with Peggy K on Veria Living. “Lying down post-nosh will lead to indigestion and leave you wrestling with your sheets.” In addition, the health expert recommends steering clear of stimulating foods and drink in the evening. She warns against drinking caffeinated beverages — such as coffee and tea — but also wine. “Even though we’re convinced a glass (or four, for some) of red wine will knock us out at night, its effects don’t last very long and can actually cause sleep disturbances.” To ensure a long night of sleep, abstain from drinking a large quantity of liquids — even caffeine-free beverages — so you don’t have to get up at night to use the restroom.
Let exercise be your sleep aid
Regular exercise will improve the quality of your sleep and even help you get to sleep. However, be sure you don’t exercise intensely in the evening. “Challenging workouts, such as a strong yoga practice, are great for exercise and energy, but if done two to three hours before bedtime can actually keep you awake,” says Nardini, who admits to having a potentially sleep-disturbing Type Triple A lifestyle and using exercise as a way to get to bed faster and have a more restful night. She suggests doing harder workouts early in the day and winding down at night with a p.m. yoga practice to relax your body and ready it for sleep.
Turn your bedroom into a sleep haven
Your bedroom should be a sleep sanctuary where you can retreat at the end of the day to relax, have sex and slumber peacefully. In addition to giving technology the boot, put soft sheets and comfortable pillows on your bed. Spritz your room with calming essential oil sprays containing lavender, chamomile or sandalwood, and shut out external light sources with curtains or by closing your bedroom door. Kotsopoulos also suggests turning down your bedroom temperature. “If your bedroom is too hot, it may prevent you from getting your best sleep,” she explains. “Body temperature typically drops when you fall asleep, so a cooler room temperature is more aligned to your body’s own innate sleep temperature.”