Brought to you by our featured guest blogger, Katie Bower, author and founder of Bower Power.
We all love binge watching our favorite new shows. We all know the guilty feeling when Netflix’s ever-so-polite, “Are you still watching?” message appears. It’s HARD to turn it off! Why can’t I just say No to one more episode?! But the fact is, many of us are hooked, and what takes the hit is our sleep schedule. We all want more sleep and worry about how tired we are. But even after we push the Off button, our brains can’t shut down. Our bodies lie there waiting for it to happen, but we are continuously restless. If this sounds like your particular brand of problem, there is help! I put some of the most common shut-eye tips to the test and narrowed them down to my favorite five. Here are a handful of tips for falling asleep faster.
TUNE IN TO YOUR BODY
One would never buy a super expensive new gadget and expect to know how to operate it without reading a manual. But many people do that very thing with their own body. We don’t pay attention to our own body’s instructions, and we can reap expensive and detrimental consequences. All of our bodies go through cycles. The first is elimination, which benefits from drinking lots of fluids and eating fresh fruit. The next cycle is appropriation – when we are most active and our metabolism rate peaks. The last cycle is assimilation … when we sleep! We do better in this cycle if we avoid eating processed foods, and we drink water, green tea or honey lemon water. If we listen to our bodies and pay attention, we can learn when to sleep, drink water, eat healthy foods, and exercise. Fighting the cycle is a surefire way to sabotage the sleep cycle and hurt our chances of falling asleep quickly.
EXERCISE EVERY DAY
This might sound like a “duh” moment, but the things we do when we are awake affect how we sleep. We can’t sit at our computers, sit in the car, sit in front of the television, and then flip a switch and shut down promptly. We often think exercise is always vigorous, requires the newest clothes and shoes and takes place at a gym. But the fact is our bodies need to be active to feel the need for inactivity. The best example of this is seen in children. When our kids sit inside all day doing quiet activities and get minimal exercise, they have a harder time falling asleep. In contrast, when our kids get to swim in a pool or have lots of playground time or ride bikes, they fall asleep faster. We aren’t making them run on a treadmill … even play counts as exercise! Adult “play activity” (aka exercise) can be gardening, geocaching, building furniture or walking. Any physical activity will help you fall asleep more quickly and easily.
INVEST IN YOUR COMFORT
We should be spending a third of our lives in bed sleeping, so why would we question investing in our comfort while in bed? The answer is … we shouldn’t. Sheets can be itchy. Bedding can be hot. Mattresses can be too soft or firm. Pillows can cause neck aches. Even the bedroom can have too much clutter, causing stress. Take the time to figure out what would make your space more comfortable. Maybe you need to switch out your mattress to one that has dual adjustability for you and your spouse (that’s what we have, and we LOVE it). Maybe your pillow is for a back sleeper and you sleep on your side. Simply lie down, think about anything that can be improved for your comfort and then fix it. The Sleep Number® team can help! You will fall asleep faster if you learn what your body needs to be comfortable.
REDUCE ANXIETY & STIMULATION
One of the biggest things that keeps me up at night is my own brain. I lie down and just can’t stop thinking about the things that I have to do that week or the next day. To help combat that anxiety, I make lists. Putting the items in one place is a great way to get them out of your thoughts. But then I am afraid to pick up my phone (where I keep the lists) because I don’t want to be kept awake by the stimulating blue light of the screen (proven to reduce the level of the hormone melatonin, which helps you fall asleep). My solution is easy. I have my phone scheduled to switch to a warm yellow screen at a certain time each night, so I can still punch in my lists without looking at a blue screen. I also have an alarm each night tell me I must shut down my laptop and turn off the television. This reminds me to reduce all that stimulation and allow my body to adjust for bedtime.
GET EXCITED ABOUT A SCHEDULE
As a parent, I am always excited about a schedule for my kids, though I always make excuses about a schedule for myself. Just like my children get the same bedtime routine – bath, pajamas, brush teeth, read a book, sing a lullaby and lie down at a certain time – I also need a bedtime routine to help me fall asleep faster. My routine is more like shower, blow dry hair, pajamas, brush teeth, make my lists, read a book, drink hot herbal tea, and turn on noisemaker. The most important steps for me are going to bed and waking up at the same time. As difficult as it is, these simple steps allow my body to understand and maintain a schedule.
On a personal note, I am expecting our fifth child, and sleeping on an adjustable bed is one thing I wish I had done years ago. During pregnancy, I experience lots of swelling, hip issues and pelvic problems. In past pregnancies, I was constantly uncomfortable and struggled to get my swollen feet and legs to be above my heart (what the doctor recommends) but with the adjustable base from Sleep Number, I can easily do just that! It’s crucial to get that relief so that I can be a better mom when I am on my feet. I can also put the bed in an upright position with my feet still up – putting less pressure on my hips. It’s actually the best position ever to read night time books to the kids and they all LOVE getting to pile up with me as part of their nighttime routine.
In the end, sleep is a very important factor in our lives. Sleep deprivation has detrimental effects on health, finances, productivity and mood. And the worst part is that your brain doesn’t know that it needs more restful shut-eye … because it’s sleep deprived! So go to bed on time, and I hope these five tips will help you get more of exactly what you need. Sweet dreams!
In need of more pregnancy sleep tips? Check out “Waiting on Baby Luke.”