Getting enough sleep is crucial to your health and well-being. Adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night, but only about 21% of Americans achieve this. Here are some practical tips to help you get the most from your rest.
Keep It Cool
Try not to stress about the next day, especially right until the moment you collapse into bed. Give yourself a break! Take a deep breath (or several), roll your shoulders, get comfy, and let yourself unwind.
Oh, and make sure the temperature is comfortable for sleeping. Cooler temperatures signal to your body that it’s time to go into sleep mode, so try adjusting the thermostat downward, especially if you’re tossing off the covers at night.
Keep It Quiet
To get relaxed and ready to sleep, eliminate needless noise at least an hour before you’re ready to sleep. White noise, such as fans or the air conditioning, can help drown out what you can’t turn off, and has soothing effects of its own. If you’ve got a favorite song or playlist that’s light and relaxing, go ahead and play it, but keep the volume low.
Keep It Dark
Periods of light and darkness control the release of melatonin from the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin is the hormone that tells your body it’s time to sleep, and light exposure in the evening interferes with its production. Keeping your bedroom completely dark will prevent sunlight, streetlights, headlights, or any other unwanted illumination from throwing your sleep cycle off track. Blackout blinds or curtains will make this possible and let you sleep in relaxing darkness.
Red Light, Blue Light
The brighter – and bluer – the light, the worse its effects. Blue light disrupts your body’s ability to sense when it’s time to sleep, and interrupts the cycle of melatonin production by telling your brain that it’s time to wake up. The wavelength of red light, however, has a much smaller disruptive effect.
Use warm bulbs and dimmer settings in the evening hours, reduce or eliminate electronic use right before bed, and cover or turn off any status or power indicator lights that aren’t red. Many phones and tablets now have blue light filter settings to reduce eyestrain, and these are especially important to use when winding down before bed.
Avoid full strength overhead lights if you have to get up at night. Even a brief period of bright light can completely derail your melatonin production and reduce the quality of your sleep for the rest of the night.
But needing to use the bathroom or get a drink doesn’t have to wreck your sleep. A small (red) nightlight around a corner or connected to a motion-sensing switch will help make sure you have light only when and where you need it.