In an age of flashy distractions and round-the-clock information, it has become increasingly difficult for many to maintain a healthy and consistent sleep schedule. According to a 2015 National Sleep Foundation study, individuals between the ages of 18-64 should be getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, but as many of us know, this rarely happens; and even when we are getting enough sleep, we often don’t get those hours at consistent times.
There are two primary stages to sleep: rapid-eye-movement (REM) and non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM). As the body goes back and forth between these two cycles as we sleep, it’s important to maintain these cycles in as uninterrupted a way as possible. When we sleep at the same time each night for the amount of time our body needs, our circadian rhythm works at peak functionality, and we feel more refreshed the next day. A good night’s sleep will make getting up easier – your body will feel more energized and efficient throughout the day. But how can we get ourselves to sleep in a healthier and more consistent way? Here are a few strategies to keep in mind.
LEAVE THE PHONE ALONE
Whether it’s sending a text or browsing the internet, it can be easy to get sucked into handheld devices while lying in bed trying to get to sleep. The internet has no sleep schedule, and with what amounts to a 24-hour stream of entertainment delivered on a bright screen, it can take a deliberate effort to put down the phone or turn off the TV and get some quality sleep. Not only does your phone activity cut into your sleep time, but looking at a screen tricks your brain into perceiving the light as daylight: which sends signals to the brain that it’s not time to fall asleep yet. This means that even after the phone has been put down, the time it takes to fall asleep (and the quality of that sleep) can easily be affected. The best way to fight this temptation is to avoid using electronic devices between 30 minutes to an hour before going to bed. In the cases where you must use the screen, trying to limit that time and, if possible, use programs like f.lux (https://justgetflux.com/) which will adjust the color tone of your screen over the course of the day to help avoid negatively affecting your ability to sleep.
DON’T USE YOUR BED FOR LOUNGING
One often overlooked method to improve quality of sleep is to avoid lying on your bed during the day when you’re not intending to go to sleep. If you only lie down on your bed when you’re about to go to sleep, your brain will begin to associate that place with sleeping, and this can help improve your ability to fall asleep faster.
BE CONSISTENT WITH YOUR SCHEDULE
It’s easy to think that, as long as you’re getting somewhere around the amount of sleep you need at night, or making up for it with small naps during the day, that you will have the same quality of sleep and feel good the next day. This isn’t really the case – if you’ve ever been jealous of those individuals who seem to be able to fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow, the best chance you have of falling asleep that quickly and deeply is to fall asleep at the same time every day and wake up at the same time every day. Keep a consistent bedtime every night.
Once you’re avoiding screen use, falling asleep at the same time daily, getting a healthy amount of sleep, and using your bed only for sleep, you will find that actually getting to sleep becomes dramatically easier. A major reason why it’s often so difficult to get to sleep is just that our body doesn’t realize that we want to. By following these strategies, you will wake up much more refreshed and ready to take on whatever the day has in store for you.