Sleep. That elixir of rest that allows you to reboot, recharge and really tackle your day at 100%. Sadly, few of us actually get enough sleep (or sleep at a high enough quality).
Creating a nightly routine before heading off to dreamland can maximize your shut-eye and improve the quality of your sleep. Here are five quick tips that will help you ease into your nightly ZZZ’s and wake up feeling fully refreshed.
1. Have a Quick Snack
Photo by Michał Grosicki
Despite the old adage that you shouldn’t eat right before bed, having a light but high-quality snack right before sleeping can actually be beneficial. It’s especially useful for those who end up lying in bed, tossing and turning, for more than 20 minutes.
Certain foods work better for some people than others, but there are a few universal “sleep aid” foods, the most common ones being bananas, cherries and yogurt.
A lack of potassium can make it difficult for us to stay asleep, making bananas, a fruit rich in this mineral, a great pre-bedtime snack. Cherries is another great sleep food as they have high levels of melatonin, a hormone that is released by the body as you get closer to bedtime to make you feel sleepy. The protein in yogurt makes it a snack that will sustain your blood sugar levels through the night. By keeping your blood sugar even, you promote a better "tune-up" environment for your body; it can now use those extra calories from the snack to do any repairs it needs to while you sleep.
2. Tidy Up Around Your Bed
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Going to bed in a messy room can lead to feelings of anxiety, which isn’t ideal when you are trying to relax your mind. Have a pair of shoes on the floor? Tuck them into your closet. Clean clothes not yet put away? Take a moment to get them sorted. Giving yourself two minutes to tidy up and make sure you are in as close to an “ideal” sleep space as possible will really put your mind at ease as you drift off.
3. Gentle Stretching
Photo by Imani Clovis
Now that your floor is clear, sit yourself down and do some light stretching. This exercise can be whatever feels good to you, from some cat-cow for a “stuck” back or even just hanging over in rag doll to release tight hamstrings. The moves are less important than the routine itself. By going through the same two to three movements every night, your mind and body will be “signaled” that you are approaching sleep. It should then start to feel appropriately tired and relaxed. Allow a few days of nightly stretching to pass and you will notice that by the end of your first stretch, you will automatically feel more sleepy. Pavlov would be proud!
4. Cultivate Some Gratitude
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Take 2 minutes to write down 3 things that you are grateful for. Ideally, these should be things that took place that day (I am grateful I didn’t actually spill that cup of coffee all down my white blouse right before my presentation). Be sure you don’t just think your gratitude, but really put that pen to paper! If you have a journal use that, but there’s no need to get fancy. Even a post-it will work. Studies have shown that by focusing on what we are grateful for right before hitting the hay, we are able to indulge in better, longer and more restful sleep.
Of course, some days will be better than others. There might even be days you really struggle to articulate gratitude for the less than ideal day you had. One good standby? “I am grateful today is over and that tomorrow is another day.”
5. Do Some Breathing Exercises
Photo by nomao saeki
The good news is that you've been doing some form of breathing since you were born and are already super proficient at it. To get to an expert level and help you sleep better, the next step is to master some specific breathing patterns. Focusing on breathing has been shown to help settle the mind quickly and allow for an easier drift into sleep. One method is the 4-7-8 breathing pattern.
To give this a shot, give yourself a moment to get comfortable in bed and listen to your breath. Now, purposefully breathe in for 4 counts through your nose (just by silently counting in your head). From there, hold your breath for 7 counts. Finally, breathe out through your mouth for 8 counts. That’s it! It might feel awkward the first couple of times you try it, but stick with it. You will notice that after only a couple of rounds, your mind and body will feel much more relaxed. Sleep is just a few more breaths away.
The more you can make the 10 minutes before sleep routine, the more the familiarity of going through the motions will work their magic on you. So, give these simple two minute tips a go and watch as you start to fall asleep sooner, sleep more deeply and wake in the morning more rested. Happy dreaming!