It’s hard not to roll your eyes when your mother reminds you, a full-grown adult, to get 8 hours of sleep. Between work, your personal life, and your social obligations, sleep isn’t always the first priority on your mind. Part of the problem is that we measure our sleep with time, rather than quality. Passing out on the couch with the TV on will never compare to a proper night’s rest, no matter how many hours you’re out for.
If you’re waking up feeling fatigued, try following these five simple steps on how to sleep better. Although the effects are subtle at first, waking up well rested will improve your quality of life more than you’d expect.
#1 Commit Yourself
Let’s be honest with ourselves, everyone likes to cheap sleep a little. Knowing we have work in the morning, we pick a time to head to bed. Before we try to catch some shuteye, we decide to take a quick peek at Facebook, or respond to a few messages.
At first, we only plan to be on our phone for a minute or two. But this can turn into 30 minutes, or even an hour pretty easily. This is the first habit that has to go. Our environment subconsciously affects our mindset in pretty powerful ways. This is the same reason why you feel a sense of happiness when you walk in your front door after being out of town.
Your bed should only be used for two activities – one of which is sleep. If you make it a habit, you’ll fall asleep more easily. No more counting sheep!
#2 Keep a Schedule
Our minds are heavily influenced by circadian rhythms. Certain stimuli cause chemicals to be released that enhance or suppress certain mental functions. These functions are quite complex, and there is a lot going on at the same time. It’s easy for them to fall out of sync. The end result is that you always feel a little bit off.
You’re tired in the mornings, and have a hard time getting yourself moving. At night, you seem to be wide awake, and sleep seems like a distant dream.
The easiest way to get your circadian rhythms in sync is to keep a schedule. You’ve probably heard the term “biological clock” before, and this is the perfect way to describe it! For at least a month, you should try to go to bed and wake up at exactly the same time.
After a few weeks, you’ll start to notice some pretty significant changes in your mood, energy, and quality of sleep. Once this becomes the norm, you’ll be able to stay up late, or sleep in once a week or two. For the first little bit, it’s important that you are strict with your schedule in order to reduce the adjustment time.
#3 Maintain Correct Posture
While you’re sleeping, your conscious mind isn’t aware of your body. Your subconscious, on the other hand, is still keeping an eye on things. If you’ve ever had a car alarm go off at two in the morning, you’re well aware of the fact that powerful stimuli can wake you up almost instantly.
With this knowledge, it’s easy to think of sleep as a polarized state. You’re either sleeping, or you’re awake. But this is not entirely true. When your neck is twisted at an awkward angle, your breathing is restricted by a pillow, or your back is sore from the day’s work, you might not be able to sleep deeply.
If you practice Yoga, stretch regularly, or have a fit lifestyle, keeping good posture may come naturally for you. If you work at a desk, you’ll find it challenging to adjust. Fortunately, this can be accomplished with the right setup.
The best sleeping position is on your back. You don’t necessarily need an expensive mattress, but it does need to be adequate. Whether it’s firm or soft is purely subjective, so you can choose whichever you prefer. But if you’re sleeping on a couch, pullout, or air mattress, you’ll be hurting your posture more than you’re helping it.
If you toss and turn at night, or find that you wake up in a different position than you went to sleep in, it’s possible that you have a sore neck. A proper pillow, in this case, is the best purchase you can make.
Your neck posture is the hardest to adjust because your muscles adapt very easily. This means that you might feel a little worse before you feel better. By using a firm pillow that holds your neck in place, your muscles will adapt to proper posture over time. With luck, your body will finally be able to relax.
#4 Remove Distractions
It’s important that you are able to sleep in a calm, quiet environment. Depending on your work schedule, you may need to sleep during daylight hours. This isn’t directed exclusively at night shift workers either, anyone who works late or sleeps in past 9 is included. Light is a very powerful stimulus, so you’ll want to get blackout curtains or something to keep the room dim.
If there is a television, computer, or other electronic device in your room, make sure that your partner isn’t using it while you’re trying to sleep. Even though it’s indirect, it can still reduce your quality of rest.
#5 Send Clear Signals
If you’ve tried all of the above steps and still wake up feeling tired, there is one last thing you might want to look at. Food, drinks, and drugs can all have a strong stimulant effect on your body. Coffee should be the first thing to go. If you restrict your usage to the morning, you may find it easier to get to sleep. In fact, once you’re sleeping better, your need for caffeine may suddenly disappear.
Although it’s the obvious culprit, coffee isn’t the only reason you may have a hard time getting to sleep. Sugar can be problematic for many people, as well as simple carbs such as white bread and rice. Be sure to discuss your changes with your doctor, and see if any drugs that you take could be affecting your sleep.
Even simple over the counter drugs such as antihistamines, cold medicine, and digestive aids contain powerful stimulants or sedatives. Compared to coffee, the effect on your sleep can be even more profound.
Why It’s Worth it?
You never realize how overtired you are until you get a good night’s sleep. I started this blog because a few simple lifestyle changes impacted my lifestyle more than I ever thought possible. With a proper night’s rest, you’ll wake up feeling happy, energetic, and prepared to take on the challenges of the day. That feeling is something that no cup of coffee can every compare to.