You might be the healthiest eater, the most disciplined about your workouts and the most skilled at coping with stress and tension. But if you aren’t getting the right amount of high-quality sleep, odds are that you aren’t going to feel your best. Here are some simple tricks for optimizing your sleep — whether you need six hours, eight hours or 10.
1. Stick to a routine. Train your body to recognize when it’s time for bed and when it’s time to wake up. Bedtime routines aren’t just for kids: Establish a presleep ritual that helps your body relax and prepare for rest. This might include reading a book, sipping hot water or herbal tea or preparing yourself for the next day.
2. Turn off the tech. It’s tempting to spend any down time we have catching up on social media, checking emails or binge-watching Stranger Things. But research shows that screen time inhibits sleep: The blue light emitted from screens actually simulates daylight, preventing your body from resting. Take at least 30 screen-free minutes before you go to bed.
3. Turn down the thermostat. Your ideal temperature for sinking into a restful night’s sleep is likely between 60—67°F. When your body is beginning to initiate sleep, it decreases your temperature. By lowering the thermostat or opening a window to promote the flow of cool, fresh air, you facilitate this natural process.
4. Nix the nightcap. That evening glass of red wine might be to blame for a restless night of sleep. Although alcohol is a sedative, the substance is metabolized during the second half of the night, which lifts your body out of deep sleep.
5. No caffeine after 2. This one is straightforward: Caffeine is a stimulant, so it’s designed to keep you awake. Resist the urge to fix your late-in-the-day slump with a cup of joe, and try taking a brisk walk outside instead. If you’re still finding it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night, consider limiting your intake to one cup per day. Your body will thank you.
6. Eat dinner early, and keep it light. Even though a big meal may initially make you feel unspeakably drowsy, it will take much longer to digest, which prevents your body from fully resting. Have your biggest meal midday to enable better sleep come nighttime.
7. Breathe deeply. One of the many benefits of mindful breathing is reduced anxiety and stress. By spending five or more minutes simply focusing on your breath — or even counting your inhales and exhales — you will elicit a state of total calmness, making it easier to drift to sleep.
Feeling under the weather, moody or just a little “off”? Listen to your body. Most likely, you aren’t giving it the deep, rejuvenating sleep it needs to perform at its best.