Getting enough sleep is integral to living a happy, healthy life. When you rest, your mind and body get a chance to recover and recharge for the next day. Whether you’ve found yourself staying up a bit too late, or you recently changed work schedules, there are many ways to get your sleep schedule back on track:
Be conscious of your caffeine intake
You don’t have to completely cut out caffeine to get a good night’s rest, but you should be aware of how much you’re ingesting and when. Your morning cup of coffee likely won’t affect how you sleep, but that late afternoon energy drink might. WebMD.com’s, Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., says, “Caffeine is a stimulant and should be stopped four to six hours before bedtime.” Be sure to watch out for sneaky caffeine in the form of soda, chocolate, iced tea, and even some over-the-counter medications. Always inspect the labels to ensure you’re not unintentionally ruining your sleep schedule.
Block out the light
Melatonin is a hormone that is released in your body to aid in your wake-sleep cycle. However, melatonin is typically only produced at night when it’s dark. To help your body naturally create this sleep hormone, you’ll want to be sure you can’t see any light when you’re in bed. Blackout curtains and not having the television on are good places to start. And as tempting as it might be to endlessly scroll to tire your mind, the light of your phone may actually make things worse for your brain and its sleep schedule. If you’re still struggling to fall asleep, you can opt for a light dosage of melatonin, which is sold in most retail stores. “Melatonin is generally safe for short-term use,” notes Brent A. Bauer, M.D., at the Mayo Clinic.
Get some exercise
Regular exercise should be the goal for everyone, but especially so for those struggling to get good sleep. Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., medical director at the John Hopkins Center for Sleep says, “Aerobic exercise causes the body to release endorphins. These chemicals can create a level of activity in the brain that keeps some people awake. These individuals should exercise at least one to two hours before going to bed, giving endorphin levels time to wash out and ‘the brain time to wind down.’” Try to get 30 minutes of exercise each day to get your body on a schedule of producing these endorphins.
Practice relaxation techniques
Scheduling a specific time to relax might seem silly at first, but doing so may help you sleep better. Kristen Nunez of Healthline notes, “When you’re stressed or anxious, your body produces more cortisol, the stress hormone. The higher the cortisol, the more awake you feel.” To help lower those levels, try doing some light yoga or meditation before bed. If you’re desperate to just flop down on your mattress, try to squeeze in some stretching or deep breaths before calling it a night. Journaling is also a great way to relax at night and clear your mind of everything that’s going on in your life so you don’t toss and turn worrying about things.a
You don’t have to try all of these methods at once to get better sleep, but starting with at least one is a good way to help your mind and body relax.