By Lauren Stone
Have you ever thought about your sleeping “habits?” Do you drink a glass of water before bedtime? Do you fall asleep to the sound of the TV in the background? What exactly constitutes a “good” sleeping habit ? The body certainly has a way of letting us know when it’s had quite “enough” or even “not enough”; when we overuse our muscles, soreness typically sets in. When we haven’t rested enough, fatigue, tiredness and lack of energy are the result. Just as it is important to “rest” our muscles after overuse or a hard workout, it is equally as important to rest our bodies with the appropriate amount of sleep each night. How we function during the waking hours is dictated by how well we have rested the night before.
How much sleep is enough for your body? Experts suggest at least eight hours a night, but this can be a rather cumbersome question, as many factors of our daily life habits hinge upon the quality and amount of sleep. The key is the quality of rest over quantity. “The cure to sleep difficulties and daytime fatigue can often be found in your daily routine. Your sleep schedule, bedtime habits, and day–to–day lifestyle choices make an enormous difference in the quality of your nightly rest. The following sleep tips will help you optimize your nightly rest, minimize insomnia, and lay the foundation for all–day energy and peak performance” (source: HelpGuide.org).
Establishing a regular sleep cycle is one of the first steps to improve your sleep habits. Listening to your body’s natural circadian rhythm will allow you to focus on going to bed and awaking at or around the same time each day and night. Setting a consistent pattern creates a better balance and leaves you feeling more awake, energized and productive throughout the day.
It is also essential to creating a relaxing routine at bedtime, as this will signal it is time to slow the mind and begin to wind down for the day. Create a comfortable, cool temperature for the room and try to turn off all electronics or reading material. Interacting with these types of distractions will only further stimulate the mind into “thinking” mode verses the passive and gradual relaxation needed to fall asleep. Let the bed become the focus, allowing your muscles and body sink gently into the sheets, breathing deeply in preparation for rest.
Strive to put stress and anxiety in check. The mind naturally wants to think and dissect the day’s events at lightning speed as soon as we have a moment of stillness, most typically at bedtime. Try to let these thoughts drift past, easing the mind into a restful state. Approaching the bedtime hour in a calm manner will help signal it is time for rest, relaxation and even a deep state of meditation. Your mind and body have worked hard throughout the day so let this time be about finding adequate rest to wake up fully refreshed and energized to repeat the next day
Experts suggest exercising and eating a well-balanced diet regularly to enhance good sleep habits. Be mindful of what you are putting into your body. Especially before bedtime, as it can enhance or hinder the quality of rest you get. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol at nighttime if possible. Eat a diet full of whole grains, protein and plenty of fruits and vegetables as these foods are easier for your system to digest, cutting down on the risk of heartburn or any acid reflux. Set an intention to engage in some form of exercise at least thirty minutes per day, whether it is early morning or towards the evening hour. This will fatigue the mind and body enough to help settle into a restful sleep. Even doing a bit of housework after dinner or engaging in a blissful yoga session is enough to keep the body fluid and flowing, promoting good sleep.
These tips will certainly enhance your sleep time regime. Relish in the time you have set aside each night to really, truly turn off the thinking mind and find that sweet state of slumber. Without adequate rest, it is impossible to function to your fullest potential and can ultimately lead to a host of unpleasant problems. Your bed is your sanctuary, so treat it as such. With these helpful tips, turn off the lights and dream sweetly.