What To Change To Sleep Better
The three main factors affecting sleep are:
- Routine — When you sleep, and what you do immediately before that.
- The Sleep Environment — Where you’re sleeping, and what you’re sleeping on.
- Diet & Exercise — What you eat, and how often you move.
We’ll take a look at each factor — what it means, and how to set it for maximum effectiveness.
Sleep researchers believe that the more consistent your evening routine is, the better your sleep will be. You surely have some form of sleep routine already — brushing your teeth, putting on your pajamas, stalking the grandkids on Facebook.
If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep, try making this routine more regimented. Turn it into a schedule.
These are just guidelines. There is no “best time to sleep” for everyone, just one that works for you. Your sleep routine should include whatever you feel will put you in a relaxed frame of mind — and on the express train to Dreamtown.
One suggestion that isn’t in everyone’s toolkit — some sort of mindfulness practice. If you do a nightly prayer, that’s a form of mindfulness. If that’s not your thing, mindfulness could take the form of meditation, listening to calming music, or writing letters of advice to your less successful grandkids. Dr. Andrew Weil, the Harvard-trained doctor and author, promotes a breathing technique, the 4-7-8. Here he shows you how to do it:
The Sleep Environment
Most of us only think about our sleep environment when it gets disrupted. An extremely hot night. A partner with a persistent cough. A neighbor learning the trombone. But what about the basics: Is your room a place of peace? Is your bed comfortable? If you aren’t sleeping well, it might be time to experiment.
Our bodies are used to sleeping at night, as the temperature cools down. If your bedroom is too hot, your body may simply be confused. One simple step to getting better sleep? Try setting the thermostat a tick or two lower. If you can’t control the temperature of your bedroom, fans can make you feel cooler. It’s okay to trick your body for its own good.
The whole sleeping at night thing also means our bodies expect darkness. Fewer and fewer of us have it. Modern bedrooms often have larger windows. And, because the heavy curtains of the English country house are so expensive, we tend to cover them with thin paper or metal blinds. Cities and suburbs are brighter at night than they used to be. To sum up, everyone before you in the family tree probably slept in a darker bedroom than you do.
We’re not suggesting you go sleep in a cave, but you might benefit from a room that’s lit like one. Blackout curtains are inexpensive and easy to install. Figure out how to dim any electronics that toss light at night. Or, invest in an eye mask.
Important: If your bedroom is too dark, you might be risking a fall if you need to get up in the middle of the night. Keep light within arm’s reach of your bed at all times, whether that’s a lamp, a flashlight, or your iPhone.
Persistent noise during sleep not only prevents you from sleeping, but it might lead to something even more dangerous. Trying to sleep when the noise level is 55 decibels or above, or about what a busy street sounds like, can cause higher blood pressure and heart attacks.
Unexpected sounds from passing cars, night-owl neighbors, or clumsy partners can drop you straight out of your dream cloud. If outside noises are disturbing your sleep, heavy curtains can help block them out. A white noise machine or “soothing sounds” recordings may help relax you. Finally, the brute force method — ear plugs.