Do you have difficulty sleeping?
If you’re someone who struggles with falling asleep or staying asleep, you might be wondering how you’ll ever get some rest and how to sleep throughout the night.
There are so many things that can prevent us from really getting a good night of sleep, and over the years I’ve looked at the research and used personal experience to come up with a list of rituals to implement to help improve your sleep. Last week, I covered the importance of sleep in our cognitive performance and daily lives. This week, I’m sharing my twelve rituals that can help you get a better night of sleep, as lack of sleep is detrimental to your physical and mental well-being. While everyone’s experience will be different, these rituals have held true across the board.
Cognitive Performance’s 12 Rituals for a Restful Night’s Sleep
Ritual One: Going to Bed Early and Rising Early
Most highly successful people go to be at the same time every evening and wake up early. It may seem obvious, but make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to actually sleep! If you are not accustomed to going to bed early, at first you should start by going to bed when you are sleepy. Regardless of the time you go to sleep, set your alarm to get up early (think 5:30 AM-6: 30 AM). You may have to tough it out for a few days without a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep until your body clock resets. Within a few days, you will be going to bed earlier and waking up earlier naturally. Stick to going to bed right around the same time every night to get your body into the routine. Make sure that you are getting the right amount of sleep for YOU, not based on what anyone else chooses.
Ritual Two: Enlisting Support
Talk with your significant other, or even your roommate. Whoever is around you at bedtime can serve as your greatest supporter in your journey to better sleep! If your significant other is disrupting your sleep by going to bed a lot later, it can hurt not only your sleep quality but also your closeness. Doing something like this together can help build camaraderie and leave you both waking up feeling refreshed!
Ritual Three: Electronics Shut Off
Each night, turn off the electronics around you at least 30 minutes before bedtime, but ideally an hour before. This includes computers, TVs, and cell phones. If you have to have a cell phone on, place it far enough away from your bed that you have to get out of bed and walk to answer it if it rings, or turn off its alarm in the morning.
Ritual Four: Creating a Pre-Bedtime Ritual…and Sticking to it!
Create a ritual to do each night before going to bed. Need ideas? Think of things like taking a bath or shower, organizing your lunch for the next day, meditation, yoga (I find stretching helps me to be less restless once I hit the pillow), or reading a book. Keep this time a safe zone away from intense conversation or contemplation. This ritual should be started around 30-60 minutes before your head hits the pillow.
Ritual Five: Keeping the Bedroom’s Purpose
Your bedroom shouldn’t also serve as your work office. Save the bedroom (and the bed) for the necessary things like sleep and sex. The bedroom and bed should be a retreat of relaxation and rest, not of stress.
Ritual Six: Respecting the Schedule You’ve Made
Find the time that works for you to get up and go to bed each day. This should ideally be done together with your significant other if applicable. Try to keep this the same each day, even over the weekend! However, make sure you allow for flexibility should the occasion arise, such as an especially late night event that requires a later wake up for your body to feel restored.
Ritual Seven: Food and Alcohol Before Bed…yay or nay?
I say “Nay!” Not only can the food or alcohol sit in your stomach uncomfortably, but eating large meals or drinking lots of alcohol before bed can actually lead to acid reflux and heartburn. Waking up to this is not fun for anyone. However, a small snack before bed may be needed by those with concerns like diabetes. You may want to ask your doctor to be tested if you wake up throughout the night. I recommend an apple and almond butter if you do need a snack to keep your blood sugar stable and to help you to stay asleep throughout the night. Try to also avoid caffeine and excessive sugars for 4-6 hours before bed.
Ritual Eight: Getting rid of Distracting Noise
If you live on a busy road or find yourself with a particularly noisy neighbor, investing in a good white sound machine or fan can be life-changing. Block out that noise that will keep you awake otherwise!
Ritual Nine: What to do When it’s Cold Outside
Baby, it’s cold outside! However, that means a more cuddly night of sleep. I love and suggest lowering the thermostat to a comfortable temperature to allow warmth from the blankets rather than relying on a hot furnace through the night. Adding a humidifier can also support restful sleep if the air in your room is too dry.
Ritual Ten: What to do When it’s Hot Outside
Nobody likes to sweat while they sleep. In the summer, I suggest keeping the room cool enough so that is comfortable and allows for a good night of sleep, sweat-free! Help your busy brain to unfocus on the discomfort of heat by stimulating your tactile and olfactory sensations with a cool shower before bed and then wearing light night clothes. You may want to then add the light aromatherapy scent such as lavender or sage. Your thoughts will wander to the positive sensations and help you to experience restful bliss.
Ritual Eleven: Turn Off That Light!
Invest in blackout curtains, turn off all the lights, and turn electronics face down. Eliminating all light sources actually helps cue your brain to release melatonin, which is the natural sleep hormone signaling your body it’s time for rest. Keeping lights on will only confuse your brain and keep you awake longer.
Ritual Twelve: Establish a “Wake Up” Routine Using Natural Cues
Loud sounds are never a soothing way to wake up! I recommend using a light-based alarm clock that increases light intensity as it gets closer to your wake up time. This helps your body wake up naturally rather than being rudely interrupted by the beeping of an alarm.
My Challenge to YOU:
If you read my blog last week, then you might have seen my challenge about keeping a sleep journal. I’d love for you to continue that this week, implementing one or more of these rituals at a time and then thinking about your experience. Some may be easier than others, but after a while, they will become just another part of your routine.