Asking For a Friend, How Do You Get a Good Night’s Sleep?
These days, it seems like I’m stuck in an endless cycle that looks something like: yawning. Coffee. Nap. Another coffee. Another nap. More yawning. And let’s be honest: it all stems from not getting enough Zs. It’s easy to think after a rough night’s sleep and a little bit (AKA a lot) of coffee, we’re invincible and ready to tackle the day. But the lasting effects of a poor night’s sleep extend well beyond a problem that can be resolved with a Red Bull and some grit. Sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, yet only 25% of Americans get the recommended amount each night. So, asking for a friend, how do you get a good night’s sleep?
- Adults require, on average, seven to nine hours of sleep every night to properly recharge the body and mind and engage in critical growth and repair.
- A good night’s sleep happens when you’re able to fall asleep quite easily, you don’t wake up throughout the night, you don’t wake up too early, and you feel refreshed in the morning and throughout the day.
- To ensure a good night’s sleep, exercise, keep your room comfortable, save your bed for sleep, create a bedtime ritual, watch what you eat and drink before bed, and de-stress before hitting the hay.
Why is sleep important?
Sleep is one of the most effective and important tools to add to your “staying healthy” toolbox; however, it’s usually the first thing we decide to sacrifice when it seems that there isn’t enough time in the day. Why? Often, sleep can feel unproductive because it doesn’t feel that we are physically accomplishing anything. However, getting a lack of sleep can turn into a true productivity nightmare and realistically be the most unproductive thing you can do.
Without an adequate amount of shut-eye, it becomes a struggle to work, concentrate, make decisions, remember things, and be the best version of ourselves. In other words, getting a lack of sleep turns us into unproductive, grouchy zombies, which is not necessarily ideal for accomplishing tasks at work or school, crushing a lift at the gym, or sustaining healthy relationships with our peers or significant others.
The most notable benefits of a good night’s sleep include better focus, more keen decision-making, improved memory, and better accuracy in our daily tasks. It is obvious that alcohol impairs our decision-making, but to put things into perspective: being sleep deprived can impair you by up to 50% more than being under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
In addition to the important role that sleep has in daily productivity, catching up on your Zs can help to support healthy body weight, maximize athletic performance during sports or your gym workouts, support a strong heart, help with mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression, and ensure that your immune system is functioning in tip-top shape. Even more, a lack of sleep can have negative impacts on our abilities to regulate our emotions and interact socially.
What is a good night’s sleep?
It’s clear that getting a sufficient amount of snoozes is of the utmost importance, but what constitutes a “good night’s sleep?” The biggest takeaway: sleep isn’t all about quantity; a good night’s sleep is just as much about quality.
Essentially, you can still get a full eight hours of sleep and still feel groggy. Common symptoms of not getting a good night’s sleep the night before include:
- Difficulty waking up
- Not feeling well-rested when you wake up
- Feeling drowsy throughout the day
- Abnormally excessive reliance on caffeine
- Reduced performance in the gym, school, or work
More or less, a good night’s sleep happens when you’re able to fall asleep quite easily, you don’t wake up throughout the night, you don’t wake up too early, and you feel refreshed in the morning and throughout the day. It’s unrealistic to expect this to happen every single night (life happens), but this should be the case much more often than when it isn’t.
How do you get a good night’s sleep?
Now that we’ve covered exactly what a good night’s sleep entails, it seems easier said than done. Especially knowing that one in six Americans have turned to sleep medication to fall asleep or have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Here are some of the most tried and true ways to work toward getting sufficient siestas.
Exercise seems to be the answer to so many of life’s questions, and it just happens to be the answer to this one as well! Hitting the gym helps to boost the effects of our natural sleep hormones such as melatonin. Be careful, though, exercising too close to bedtime can be stimulating and make it more challenging to fall asleep. Working out in the mornings exposes you to the bright daylight, ultimately helping the circadian rhythm.
2. Reserve your bed for sleep
Sounds pretty self-explanatory, but we are all guilty of watching Netflix, answering emails, writing papers, and going on our phones in bed; however, research shows that leaving all of that for *outside* of your bed can enhance your sleep quality. Essentially, this looks like facilitating your bed as a stimulus for sleeping rather than waking.
3. Keep the room comfortable
In other words, set the mood. I’m talking low lighting while getting ready for bed, keeping the room at a comfortable temperature (channel your inner Goldilocks: not too hot, not too cold. Just right!) Overall, we’re looking at a quiet, dark, and cool environment to get your brain in the right mindset.
4. Create the perfect bedtime ritual
Crafting your perfect, sacred bedtime ritual will send messages to the brain letting it know that it’s time to hit the hay. This could look like drinking some Sleepytime Tea, taking a warm bath with essential oils, listening to a calming podcast or playlist, or reading a book. Getting comfortable with your ritual will allow you to get cozy in bed… and hopefully fall right asleep.
5. Watch what you eat and drink
When I say watch what you eat and drink, I mean just two to three hours before you lay down to sleep. Watch your caffeine and chocolate intake, avoid super large meals, and consider limiting alcohol intake before bed. Alcohol is a stimulus for sleeping but has a negative impact on sleep quality. It makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Looks like we’ll be day drinking this summer!
6. De-stress before bed
Last but not least, stress is a stimulus for waking, activating our fight and flight hormones and keeping us alert. Make sure to allow enough time before bed to wind down and de-stress (hence the need for a bedtime ritual.) Try deep breathing exercises, meditation, reading, or laying in peace and quiet. Try out different de-stressing techniques to see what works best for you.
Written by Morgan Taylor