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Your Health, Your Way: Tips for better sleep

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*Photo by Carla Zuill

No doubt you’ve heard someone say, “I slept like a baby.” Did you ever really think about that phrase? The truth is that while babies do sleep a large percentage of their day, they don’t automatically have a grasp of when to sleep. Many new parents can attest to the fact that getting an infant on a sleep schedule is difficult.

The trouble is that we often think of sleep as a natural act that needs no nurturing. The opposite is true and actually explains why so many of us are in search of a good night’s sleep. Let’s talk sleep hygiene!

Not a Passive Process

Maybe you think that your body should know what to do when you go to bed at night. You’ve worked all day, maybe worked out, streamed a show and are ready to get your snore on. You get in your bed and then you toss and turn. What gives?

There is a lot that has to be factored into getting a good night’s sleep other than flopping onto your mattress. The fact is that good sleep needs prep work. Yes, work including timing, setting, and accessories.

Timing

What time do you go to bed at night? Seriously. I’m not judging night owls here. My point is that your body is paying attention to when you actually go to bed. If you go to bed around the same time each night, you’re signaling your body when it needs to power down and get ready for sleep. But if you vary the time you go to bed, your body never gets a handle on when it should be readying to rest.

Think about it. If you told a co-worker that you would give them a ride to work every morning but not what time you were going to pick them up, your colleague could be standing outside their house waiting for you for a couple minutes or a couple hours. The same is true for your body. It needs a time frame to know when you are switching gears so if you can go to bed around the same time every night that helps your brain and body sync up.

This goes for the morning, too! I know. You’re spontaneous. You like a lie in. I get it. But this doesn’t work for your body. Just like it needs that cue that you are winding down, it thrives on a cue that you are powering up. Waking up around the same time every morning is also important.

Setting

Take a look around your bedroom. It’s called a bedroom for a reason. The fact is that the bedroom has become an entertainment center, a workspace, a snacking oasis, and a space for intimacy. All these uses of the bed confuse the body as to what this bed is for. When you get into your bed after you’ve been watching tv, answering emails and even getting it on, don’t expect to go straight to sleep. You’ve trained your body to expect to do engaging activities on it instead of sleeping. This may sound hard core but if you want to get the best sleep then save the bedroom for sleeping. ONLY.

This way when you walk into your bedroom, you are already sending the signal that you are going to be getting ready to transition into a different state. From wakefulness to sleep. When your body hits the bed, it will know this is its space exclusively for sleep.

Accessories

A few other suggestions may sound simple but can be highly effective. For instance, when is the last time you bought a new mattress? Make sure that your mattress is comfortable and look into the kind that can regulate temperature or firmness, if necessary.

Speaking of temperature, ensure that you are sleeping in a temp that works for you. If you can crank the AC at night or turn on a fan, go for it. Others like to cocoon themselves in a duvet and burrow into the warmth of bed. Find what works for you.

Also, don’t underestimate the lighting of the room. Part of building your sleep routine is signaling to your body with darkness that you are ending your day and prepping for the next. Make sure the room is without distracting light sources.

Practice makes perfect

Put some or all of these steps into motion and give it several weeks. Better sleep takes practice.

Nicole Klett is a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach located in the United States. She is certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners and has worked with hundreds of clients to reach their health goals. She is also a writer who enjoys topics that are related to self-care whether that be sharing tips for healthier eating or for the next book or movie to check out.

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