Each of us has unique needs when it comes to rest. Some people need nine to ten hours of sleep every night. Others can thrive on six hours or less. Some of us can sleep anywhere. Others need a dark, quiet space as well as comfortable bedding. Unfortunately, most of us do not get enough quality sleep, and our lives and work suffer as a result. While getting sufficient sleep is essential to well-being, healthy habits also play into the amount of quality sleep a person gets. Here are some practical tips for improving the amount of quality sleep you get each night:
1. Exercise regularly (but not right before bedtime). Exercise is essential to overall well-being. If you find this discouraging because you don’t enjoy spending hours on a treadmill or have trouble getting to the gym regularly, take courage. Small improvements in your fitness level can improve your sleep quality. Soon after I began to wear a fitness tracker regularly, I received an alert informing me that I was getting more deep sleep on days when I walked more than 4,600 steps. I began to intentionally work more steps into my day, and the result was steady improvement in overall sleep quality. One word of caution—get that exercise at least two hours before you are ready for sleep. I personally find aerobic exercise after 7:00 or 8:00 in the evening tends to keep me awake.
2. Hydrate. You know water is essential to overall health, but did you know that even mild dehydration can inhibit quality sleep? This is especially true for people who struggle with snoring or sleep apnea. For optimal hydration, try to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Experts recommend a minimum of 90 ounces of fluids for women and 120 for men. I personally try to drink at least 16 ounces of water every two to three hours throughout my day. This usually includes a warm drink such as herbal tea as a part of my bedtime routine.
3. Get plenty of light during the day. Even if you live in an area where it is difficult to get sunshine during certain seasons of the year, getting plenty of light during the day is essential for a good night’s sleep. Sunlight is the most ideal source of light, but you can also benefit by spending time in brightly lit rooms on cloudy autumn afternoons or dark winter mornings. By spending your waking hours in bright light, you can improve and regulate your circadian rhythm. In studies, subjects that spent waking hours in brightly lit environments not only got better sleep at night but also experienced higher energy during the day.
4. Stick to a regular sleep schedule. We’ve known for years that a consistent bedtime is essential for children, but what about adults? According to a 2016 press release from the CDC, one in three adults is sleep deprived. One big contributor seems to be the difficulty adults face in keeping a set sleep schedule. People who keep a standard bedtime and rise at approximately the same time each day don’t simply get better rest. They also benefit from better overall health. Research shows a correlation between irregular sleep schedules and numerous health concerns as well as chronic illnesses. Naturally, in the real world, no one can keep to the exact same schedule every day, but by keeping to a schedule more often, you can improve the rest you get each night.
5. Adhere to a healthy bedtime routine. Be mindful of the activities you engage in right before bed. Are they things that help or hinder sleep? Do you stick to a relaxing routine or simply drop into bed, exhausted, when you finish the day’s work or get the kids settled in their beds? I’ve personally found that taking about an hour to wind down at the end of my day helps me get better rest. I like to start with a warm drink—hot tea with a splash of almond milk and a little honey. I also turn on some soothing music—Bach’s cello suites are a favorite, but a good adagio collection also works well. After finishing my drink, I crawl between the sheets and focus on my breathing, setting aside any worries leftover from my day. I can pick them back up tomorrow. Pick a routine that works for you. It might be an hour long. It might be a few minutes of mindful mediation. It might look similar to my routine or be something quite different that helps you welcome sleep.
When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, results matter. Every individual is different, but there are a few basics that to consider in the quest for rest. If you need more, better sleep, begin by sticking to a regular schedule and bedtime routine. The results will speak for themselves.