We’ve all seen how everyday routines benefit children. Nightly sleep routines, for instance, can help cue little brains, letting them know its time to go to bed. Many parents might be wondering how they can sleep better themselves. What if you knew that similar sleep hygiene routines can also help adults feel more rested? Wouldn't you want to beat morning fatigue if you could?
We can use healthy sleep routines, or 'sleep hygiene,' to help ourselves live healthier lives. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School states that effective sleep hygiene habits can result in more restful sleep. The Monkey Mashup compiled an extensive list of sleeping tips to help our readers learn how to sleep better. Which of these sleep hygiene habits can you start working in to your life?
Early Morning Sleep Hygiene Routines
- Wake up at the same time every morning, even on weekends. Your body will reprogram to be at the right point in your sleep cycles when you wake up. Your body will adjust to getting the same hours of sleep every night. This may also retrain your body to get tired earlier at night (once your body knows how much sleep to expect).
- Experiment a bit with what time you are waking up. Getting up a bit earlier may seem counter-intuitive. However, waking up thirty minutes earlier could mean the difference between waking up in a deep-sleep cycle versus a lighter REM cycle. There are sleep devices that help you track where your sleep phase at different points in the night.
- Take a few huge breaths in the morning, from deep within your belly. Concentrate on waking up, sitting up and putting your feet on the floor. Visualize this before bed as well.
- Let the light in! Natural or simulated light in the morning will help your brain shift into day mode. There are “dawn simulator” alarm clocks that gradually brighten the room. Blue light therapy has also been recommended. Or ask your partner to pull the blinds up when they wake up, or leave them open all night.
- NEVER hit the snooze button. The snooze button trains your brain to stay in “sleep mode” upon waking up. Getting up with the first alarm trains your body to be ready for action at that first sound. Think about it. Do you ever wake up finally rested after hitting the snooze button two or three times? You probably feel just as tired but more rushed and anxious.
- Try experimenting with the alarm sound you use to wake up. Go with a gentler tone or the sound of waves or chimes. (Make sure these are still enough to wake you up!)
- Put your alarm clock in the hall or a nearby room. You'll have to start moving a little to turn it off. Put a big glass of water near it as well, and gulp it down to start waking up your body. Don’t just lie in bed, which signals your body that its still time to rest.
- Wake up at least two hours before you need to be anywhere. Who wants to wake up dreading a hectic morning before you even step foot out of bed? Prepare a plan for the morning. Avoid news or emails that distract you from the tasks you need to get done.
- Drinking coffee as soon as possible after waking up can get your brain moving quicker. Buy a programmable coffee maker and set it to start right when your alarm goes off.
Skip coffee on weekends and days off. Your body gets used to caffeine, so you need more to achieve the same results. Skipping the coffee sometimes helps reset your body’s tolerance. Better yet, skip coffee most days. Drink it when something has caused an unusual disturbance in your sleep or you’re extra tired for whatever reason. You shouldn’t need coffee every day unless you aren’t getting restorative sleep.
(Note! You may be more tired temporarily while your body gets used to going without its usual caffeine fix. Maybe save this new habit for a time when you’ll be on vacation all week and can deal with being more tired than usual.)
- Take 5 minutes to meditate. Use a guided meditation and/or just take a few minutes to think about what you want out of your day. You woke up for another day. Its a fresh chance at moving towards the life you want. What kind of person do you want to try to be today? Do you want to focus on your health? Your children?Your home?
- Try to get outside, get fresh air, daylight and some exercise every morning. This can be as little as walking around the block if that’s where you’re at. If you’re out of shape, start with a 5 minute walk and gradually build up to 20-30 minutes. Start a new habit of walk your dog in the morning, walking your kid to school or walking to work. Park further away from work or take public transit. Go for a bike ride or step it up to a jog. Make sure to take some deep breaths and look around you, absorbing the change in scenery.
- Change up your shower toiletries so you can look forward to using a new product some mornings. Try products with an invigorating smell like citrus or eucalyptus. Cool shower water is better for waking up.
- Have a yummy, healthy breakfast of foods you enjoy. (If you aren’t a breakfast person, there’s actually no reason you need to change this necessarily. Keep doing what works and change what doesn’t).
- Make breakfast your heaviest meal of the day, with carbs, fats and proteins. Dinnertime should be lighter so your digestion doesn’t interfere with your sleep.
Night Time Sleep Hygiene
- Have a couple ounces of turkey, a banana or a small handful of nuts as a bedtime snack. These contain tryptophan which makes your body feel sleepy. A handful of cherries or a small glass of tart cherry juice in the evening may help you sleep better, due to the large amounts of melatonin in cherries.
- Switch to herbal teas after 5pm. They even make teas that promote relaxation and sleepiness. Don’t forget that there is also caffeine in cola, chocolate and some medications.
- Don’t drink alcohol near bedtime. A glass of wine may appear to make you sleepy but alcohol caused interrupted sleep.
- Plan ahead what you will be eating for breakfast. Make sure it is something delicious to tempt you out of bed the next morning. A big omelet with cheese and veggies. Or, an overnight oatmeal with lots of dried fruits, seeds and nuts. Yum! Set the table the night before, and don’t forget to put out an article or magazine you’ve been wanting to read.
- If you can only exercise at night, weight training is better. Strength training will burn off excess sugar in your body. Try to get cardio in the morning or throughout the day.
- Start writing in a journal at night. Write down some positive experiences or accomplishments you had today. Next, write down some things that are worrying you, to get them out of running through your mind. Finally, write down some manageable goals for the next day. If you find you aren’t getting these goals done day after day, make a smaller list. Put one item on it for a while. Then after you are done writing, sit back and relax a little bit with your mind more at ease.
- Think of one exciting or pleasurable thing you can add in to your next day. Even if you aren’t happy with your job, or what you’ll be doing most of the day (be sure to put that in your journal writing). Focus on what you CAN do that would be nice. Put a flavored milk in your coffee. Wear a lipstick shade you haven’t worn in a while. Plan on calling an old friend on your way into the office or at lunch. Maybe you will play an old favorite song on your ipod while you make breakfast. It can be anything. Just plan it out ahead of time so you can look forward to it while laying down and when you wake up in the morning.
- Prepare a plan for the morning. What will you and your children wear? Can you set it out the night before? What is everyone having for breakfast and bringing in their lunchboxes….can you pack lunches the night before? At least have an idea of what food is in the house for packing. Are backpacks packed? What time do you need to be out the door to get to places on time? Getting the mindless stuff done the night before will leave more space in the morning for what you WANT to do. Like drinking your coffee out on the porch, or reading through the newspaper for a few minutes while the kids finish up their breakfast.
- Turn your phone off at night. Put it into “sleep mode” where only emergency calls can come through.
- Turn your thermostat down at night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a bedroom temperature between 60-67 degrees for optimal sleep. You'll wake up ready to jump in a hot shower!
- Dim the lights an hour before bedtime. Your body will start producing more melatonin which helps the quality of your sleep.
- Keep your bedroom a sacred place. No television. No phones. Fresh sheets and fresh air coming through. Keep the temperature in your bedroom a little cooler at night, and make sure you have cozy blankets for snuggling under. This is a great time to make sure you’re having regular physical intimacy with your partner.
- Count blessings, not sheep. You already wrote down your worries in your journal. Try to think of all the good things that happened to you during the last day.
- If you don’t want to count blessings, run through a favorite activity in your mind. The process of baking banana bread, folding clothes, or laying out items on a beach blanket, then sitting down to enjoy the waves. Your mind will be pleasantly distracted enough to fall asleep.
- Try thinking about each body part, tense it then feel the difference as you relax there. Go through your whole body from your toes to your head. Relax each part and notice how much better it feels.
- Try and go to bed the same time every night, even on weekends. Your body will get used to getting the same amount of sleep each night. Wake up the same time every morning. Experiment with this. Try different amounts for a week or two at a time. See how many hours you need to feel your best. Conversely, you can set your alarm clock for the same exact time every morning. Then, see what time you start naturally getting tired at the next night. Go to bed as soon as you get tired! Your body is telling you how much sleep you need.
Do you have any sleep hygiene tips or daily routines that make you feel more rested? Share them in the comments!