Anyone who’s ever experienced a stressful day knows that sleep usually won’t come easily that night. Left unresolved, that nagging fight with a friend, towering in-box at the office or worries over your bank account can start swirling through your brain. “Stress is probably the leading cause of why patients tell me they have trouble falling asleep,” says Michael Roizen, M.D., Chief Wellness Officer at the Cleveland Clinic.
The more you deal with your daily stressors while the sun is out, the better off you’ll be when you turn to your pillow. Luckily, mindful practices can have a magical effect on helping reduce ruminations and improve sleep quality. A recent research study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that practicing mindfulness during the day and learning to focus on experiences and emotions in the moment helped middle-aged adults who had trouble sleeping reduce insomnia, depression, and fatigue, compared to subjects who only learned ways to improve their sleep habits.
But to really make sure you can drift off peacefully each night and wake up feeling refreshed, you also need to cultivate good sleep habits and to stick to a sleep schedule. Follow our tips to set yourself up for a better night’s sleep so you’ll be ready to take on all of tomorrow’s challenges.
Set up your space. It’s crucial to turn your bedroom in a peaceful, serene environment that induces sleep. The ideal room temperature in a bedroom is typically between 67 and 69 F, but choose the setting that works best for you. “It’’s very individual as to what temperature people sleep best at,” says Roizen. While you’re at it, get cozy: Make sure your pillows and bedding are comfortable, and your mattress is firm.
Turn out the light. Now that your room is cool and comfortable, keep it dark and quiet. Your body’s circadian rhythm (natural body clock) is driven by light, so a dark space helps your eyes tell the brain that it’s time to get the body primed for sleep. If your bedroom is lit up like a museum around bedtime, it can confuse your processing systems. Having a quiet environment or including white noise through a fan or a machine can also help you fall asleep faster.
Consider aromatherapy. About two-thirds of patients find that breathing in certain scents can help them fall asleep faster, says Roizen. “You can feel the effects of aromatherapy fairly quickly because your olfactory nerve connects directly to your brain so it doesn’t have to be absorbed.” Aromatherapy uses extracts from the leaves, stems and other parts of aromatic herbs, which are then distilled into essential oils. Lavender is the most common sleep-inducing scent. Try inhaling the aroma by waving an open bottle under your nose, smelling a cloth or tissue that contains a few drops of the oil, using a mister to spray it into the air or onto linens or clothing, or putting it in a diffuser (like the doTERRA The Petal Diffuser; $62.67; Walmart.)
Put yourself to bed. Just like with your kids, having a regular bedtime routine can help you fall asleep faster. “I recommend 30 minutes before bedtime that people devote 10 minutes to hygiene (think face washing and dental care), 10 minutes to doing those things they would have otherwise forgotten like make lunches, and 10 minutes to meditation,” says Roizen.
Ditch the devices. Looking at blue-light wavelength emitting devices, like your laptop, smartphone, or tablet, can interfere with your ability to fall asleep by interfering with your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep, says Roizen.
Ideally, experts recommend keeping smartphones and tablets out of the bedroom entirely, but since that’s not practical for most people, consider converting the type of light they emit. Newer iPhone and iPad models have a “Night Shift” mode that automatically changes the blue light to a softer red one; program this on your settings to occur about two hours before your regular bedtime. Many Android devices also have a Night Mode setting, as do laptops.
Avoid the midnight snack attack. Research has long linked late-night eating to weight gain and insulin resistance, but having a large meal too close to bedtime can also impact digestion and heart burn. While you’re at it, keep the night caps to a minimum. While a few drinks might help you feel sleepy, alcohol is likely to interrupt the body’s REM sleep cycle (deep sleep) and make you wake up. Don’t have more than a glass of wine or beer at dinner at least a few hours before bed.
Top Pillows for Better Sleep: For side sleepers, consider the highly-rated Wamsutta Extra-Firm Side Sleeper Pillow. The 2-inch gusset keeps head elevated and your neck supported all night ($15-20 at BedBathandBeyond.com). Back sleepers might want to try the Coop Home Goods Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillows ($55; Amazon.com). The pillow is packed with the company’s signature mix of shredded visco elastic memory foam that you can add or remove for your ideal comfort setting.
White Noise Machine Sleep Technology: The Nightingale Smart Home Sleep System features a pair of speakers that are designed to mask indoor (think snorers!) and outdoor noises by emitting a choice of 20 nature sounds. Use apps to program it to turn on and off at specific times (either the company’s own or preexisting ones, like Amazon Echo). ($300; cambridgesound.com)
The Marpac Dohm-DS All-Natural White Noise Sound Machine has two speeds that create the soothing sounds of rushing air, like a fan, without all that air a fan would actually blowing on you! Adjust the acoustics to make it louder or softer depending on your needs. ($50; Amazon.com)
Beauty Sleep Products to Wake Up Looking Refreshed: The term “sleep mask” in the beauty industry no longer applies to the patch you slip to cover your eyes while your sleep. Korean beauty-inspired “sleep masks” are overnight moisturizers that help refresh skin while you sleep, so skin looks plump and youthful in the morning. Experience this beauty treatment with a one-time SEPHORA Collection Rose Sleeping Mask ($4; Sephora), or consider a sleep mask with soothing lavender oils like this Pixi Nourishing Sleep Mask ($22; Target).
Top Mattresses for Sleep: If budget isn’t an issue, check out the new ReST bed, which uses special sensors embedded in the fabric to determine your sleep position and make real-time adjustments to adjust the mattress pressure in five zones (head, shoulder, lower back, hips and legs) through its super-quiet air pumps. Use the accompanying app to customize your support level. (Your bed-sharing partner can also change his or her own controls). ($2,800-$4,600; restperformance.com). Leesa Mattresses and Casper deliver mattresses directly to your home.
Sheets and Bedding: Consider Parachute Home bedding for modern bedding products manufactured by responsible artisans from around the world.
1 in 3: Number of adults who report not getting enough sleep.
35%: Percentage of U.S. adults who fail to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night
(This article originally appeared in The Power of Mindfulness 2017 magazine.)
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