To fall asleep easier and get deeper sleep, you need to prepare yourself for sleep. It’s just the same as you prepare yourself for any other activity.
Lack of preparation at bedtime results in tossing and turning, or a restless night of waking every couple of hours. But, there are things you can do to stack the odds in your favor for a night of quality rest.
Why People Can’t Sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, fewer adults than ever are getting the daily recommended amount of sleep (7 to 9 hours). Reasons for this growing problem include:
- Grueling work schedules
- Excessive screen time (smartphones, iPad, computer, and television)
- Artificial lighting
- Stimulants (drugs, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine)
- Energy drinks
- Electronic games
A lack of sleep will have negative effects on your quality of life, as well as your overall health and well-being.
The Effects of a Lack of Sleep
Too many restless nights not only make you tired and grumpy but also interferes with your concentration.
It can lead to poor job performance and even put you at risk of having accidents. Insufficient sleep is also linked to the following health problems:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Lowered immune system
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Increased risk of stroke and heart disease
So, what can you do to get a better night’s rest? One thing many people forget to do is to have a regular routine that prepares themselves for sleep.
15 Tips to Help You Prepare for Sleep
The following 15 tips can help you set the stage for a better night’s sleep. The last tip may seem silly, but it might just do the trick:
1. Slow Down and Get Ready to Sleep
When driving, you apply the brakes gradually as you pull alongside the curb. Doing so results in smooth parking.
In the hours running up to bedtime, though, you might not be as wise. Often, people function at full throttle and then slam on their brakes. They expect to fall asleep when their head hits the pillow.
Of course, they can’t achieve their goal. Transitioning from an alert mind to sweet dreams takes time, and groundwork is required.
To slumber like a baby, you must ease into sleep. Wind down the same way you would ease into a parking space.
Put away your work and sit quietly for a few minutes. But don’t watch a screen. Try some meditation, talk quietly with a family member, or review your day and focus on the positive aspects.
2. Shut Down Screen Time Early
Televisions, smartphones, iPads, and laptops all provide endless entertainment and avenues to carry out business. But the downside is that they can interfere with your sleep.
Staying up late at night playing electronic games or watching videos can obviously deprive you of sleep, but that’s not all.
Even if you go to bed on time, you still may not be able to sleep restfully because of the screen time.
The light emitted from electronic screens can prevent your brain from producing melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle.
To avoid this, it’s a good idea to shut down all your screens about an hour or two before bedtime.
3. Dim the Lights for Sleep Mode
You are alert when it’s light and sleepy when it’s dark. It’s a simple concept, yet most people keep their house lights turned up in the evening.
Dim your lights, or switch from bright overhead lights to lamps. As a result, getting to sleep will be easier.
It’s also helpful to get as much natural daylight during the earlier part of the day, too. It helps to balance your natural rhythm. Getting outside supports this.
Right before bedtime, nothing is more relaxing than to light a few candles and sit in the warm glow as you feel your mind and body relax and drift toward rest.
4. Reduce or Cut Out Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine
Caffeine is widely used for its “wake up” effect, so coffee, tea, cola drinks, energy drinks, and some pain relievers containing this stimulant should be avoided anywhere from four to six hours before bedtime.
Drinking that second glass of wine or a few beers too close to bedtime may initially trigger drowsiness but can also cause you to wake up during the night.
This interferes with your REM sleep, which your body and brain need to function properly and stay healthy. It’s best to avoid alcohol at least three hours before bed.
Like alcohol, enjoying a smoke before bedtime may feel relaxing at first, but it may wake you up frequently because it stimulates your bloodstream.
Research studies have shown that smokers don’t sleep as deeply as non-smokers. Ask your doctor about the best way you can quit smoking to help you sleep better and improve your overall health.
5. Less Action, More Rest Before Bedtime
Regular exercise not only benefits your overall health, but it also promotes better sleep because it tires you out, lowers blood pressure, relaxes muscles, and relieves stress.
However, the more physical or mental strain you are under before going to bed, the harder you’ll find entering the dream realm.
You should avoid vigorous exercising three to four hours before bed because your body may still be too revved up for quality sleep.
If evening or nighttime is the only time you have available for exercising, try something relaxing such as a yoga routine.
6. No Big Meals Before Bed
Don’t stress your digestive system with a big meal after eight at night. It might make you feel sleepy at first, but can backfire if you try to sleep all night right after it.
Try to eat you larger evening meal at the dinner hour, and just have a light snack before bed if you feel you must. A full stomach can also trigger unpleasant things like acid reflux when you lay down.
It’s also wise to keep your overall diet as healthy and clean as possible. An upset system will not allow for sleep.
Likewise, staying hydrated will support better rest. But be careful how much liquids you consume in the evening if you’re bothered by nighttime bathroom visits.
7. Don’t Work Your Brain Too Hard
Also, don’t excite your brain. Problem-solving activities like computer games, work, or studying will keep you awake. Put it aside and relax more to let your system unwind.
Engage in calming behaviors. Take a bath, play soothing music, and snuggle under a blanket by the fireside. But, don’t do your taxes or try to solve a Rubik’s Cube right before bedtime.
8. Try Natural Sleep Aids
If you’ve gone through the list of everything you can think of to cure your insomnia with no success, you could try some natural sleep aids.
Some good examples of effective natural sleep aids include:
These suggestions are known to be helpful for many people, and you avoid synthetic chemicals in the bargain.
9. Consume Healthy Sleep-inducing Foods
Just as some foods can keep you awake (like chocolate), there are other foods can actually help you fall asleep better.
It’s due to the fact they contain natural sleep-inducing chemicals like melatonin, serotonin, tryptophan, and magnesium.
Foods that may help you nod off easier include:
- Dairy foods (Milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream)
- Cherries (or tart cherry juice)
- Peanuts and almonds
- Turkey and chicken
- Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds
- Spinach and kale
Be cautious if any of these foods don’t agree with you because that would backfire and keep you awake. Choose those that make you feel calmer.
10. Manage Stress and Worry
When you go to bed feeling stressed or worried, your heart rate and brain go racing, making it almost impossible to achieve quality sleep.
Did you know that there are several techniques you can use to calm your anxiety and slow down your heart rate so that you can rest easier?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
One technique is called cognitive behavioral therapy. This is where you deliberately replace every negative thought or worry with a positive one.
Train your mind to think positively, and you’ll find yourself relaxing more. Try to recall times in the past when you were worried about something and remember how it worked out.
Thinking like this will reassure you that your problems will be resolved just as they always have in the past.
You can also slow down your heart rate and active brain by placing your hand on your chest above your heart. Breathe in deeply for a few seconds and slowly let the breath out.
Continue to do this until your heart rate slows down. Once your heart rate slows down, your racing mind will as well.
Keep a Journal
Keep a diary or journal in which you can write down your worries before going to bed. The act of doing this tells your brain that you have already “dealt” with these worries, and now it’s time to sleep.
Prayer or Meditation
If you’re a spiritual or religious person, prayer and meditation can be effective ways to combat worry and stress. The familiarity of the routine can also be comforting.
11. Transform Your Bedroom into a La-la Land
To get a good night’s rest, you need an environment that is dark, quiet, and cool. Here are some tips to achieve this:
- Darken your bedroom with blackout shades or heavy curtains.
- Keep the room temperature between 60 and 75°F. (You can’t sleep well if you’re cold or hot.)
- Ban televisions, computers, and any work-related devices and materials from your room.
- Switch off or turn around any devices with LED displays such as alarm clocks, cell phones, and tables.
- Tidy up your room. A cluttered physical space can clutter your mind.
- Give your bedroom a zen design that promotes calm and sleep.
- Use earplugs and an eye mask if you feel it’s necessary.
- Make sure your bed and pillow are comfortable. If they’re worn out, try to replace them.
- Don’t eat, work, or watch TV in bed. Associate your room only with sleeping.
Use the above suggestions to turn your bedroom into a sleep haven that will encourage you to nod off as soon as you walk through the door.
12. Develop a Bedtime Routine
If you spend at least 30 minutes every night with a regular routine before going to bed, your brain and body will naturally accept this as sleep time by relaxing and releasing the sleep hormone, melatonin.
Try relaxing activities such as:
- Soak in the bathtub
- Change into your pajamas
- Read a book
- Dim the lights
- Listen to relaxing music
- Use scented candles or aromatherapeutic essential oils
- Cuddle with your partner (or even a pillow or stuffed animal)
- Practice breathing exercises to calm your mind and heart rate
13. Keep a Consistent Wake/Sleep Schedule
Everyone naturally has an internal body clock, called the circadian rhythm. When this internal clock is interrupted, so is the quality of your sleep.
The best way of avoiding restless broken sleep is by sticking to a consistent schedule of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. And, it includes weekends.
Once you establish this pattern, you’ll see how your body will naturally ready itself for sleep when bedtime arrives.
14. Keep Naps Short and Earlier
Naps are not a bad thing and are actually good for recharging at midday. However, you’ll want to keep them shorter and earlier in the day to keep them from interfering with your sleep.
If you do benefit from a midday nap, try to get it in before mid-afternoon, and keep it to fifteen to thirty minutes to avoid disrupting your nighttime rest.
15. Tell Yourself It’s Bedtime
This may seem foolish at first glance, but you would be surprised at how often your actions reflect what you tell yourself.
So, do it, literally. Tell yourself it’s bedtime and you need to relax and rest to renew your energy stores for the next day.
You can think the words as a thought, but it’s even more effective if you look in the mirror and say it out loud to yourself.
But remember to be gentle with yourself. Say it with love and respect. You are your best champion.
The easiest way to fall asleep isn’t counting sheep. Nor is it thinking of the color pink, or reclining like a starfish, although, you can do all three if you want.
The best, least complicated way of gaining shut eye is to prepare. Wind down, relax and let sleep find you because you are so ready and waiting.
However, you should also keep in mind that some sleep problems may not be so easily treated with these steps. If you think you could be experiencing a sleep disorder, you should see your physician.