I used to be a night owl. I would get a bunch of new energy after 9 o’clock at night and I would study, work, do laundry, clean my apartment and go to bed around 1. Getting up at 7 the next morning hurt. Badly. I would snooze for at least half an hour before dragging myself out of bed. And guess what: I also used to be a very grumpy person the first couple of hours after waking up.
With age comes wisdom (or at least, that’s what we like to think) and I realised that I needed to change my sleeping pattern to be able to keep up and really get those recommend seven to nine hours of sleep a night. No matter how much I would love to be one of those people who just need five hours of sleep, I’m not one of them.
Fun fact: most people who are surviving on just a couple of hours of sleep a night are actually sleep deprived but they’ve gotten so used to it that they don’t realise they need more sleep. Pretty scary right?
Why you should sleep more
You can probably feel the difference in your body and mind between getting a good night sleep and a bad one. But did you know that when you don’t get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, your logical reasoning, attention and mood can be impaired? This has a direct impact on your productivity, performance and your ability to control your emotions. Aka: with a bit more sleep you can become a better version of yourself by being more on the ball, having a better mood and increase your productivity. Do you need more?!
What you can do to get high quality sleep
Right, I think you got the message that sleep is important, and maybe you didn’t even need to be convinced. But if you’re just lying in bed and you’re having trouble falling asleep or just not sleeping well in general, this will not be very helpful either. It’s crucial that when you sleep, you sleep well.
Here are a number of things you can starting doing from today on to get more sleep and improve the quality!
Create a good sleeping environment
It’s best if your bedroom is cool (not cold!), dark, quiet and organised. It’s worth it to invest in a good mattress, pillow and light-blocking curtains or blinds. My bed is the most expensive item in my whole apartment and I’ve not regretted it once. My boyfriend called me crazy at the time but now he doesn’t want anything else anymore.
I also kept my bedroom clutter free. It’s the only room in my apartment that’s always clean and organised.
This one is tough, I’ll admit. But if you can, shut off all screens at least 60 minutes before going to bed. Your iPhone, iPad, laptop and TV emit a blue light that interferes with the production of melatonin, the hormone that you need to sleep. I deliberately don’t have a TV in my bedroom and this is one of the reasons. But not using my iPhone in bed is difficult sometimes… I try to always have a book next to my bed that I really like, so I grab that instead of my phone. I also find it more relaxing than if I’m reading news, scrolling through Instagram or reading blogs because that usually sparks ideas which give me energy I don’t want at that point!
Choose to sleep
You’re not the only one who rather does something else than sleep. There’s just so much other stuff to do! Especially if your ‘me-time’ is very limited and the only time you get it is before bed. I started to spend some of my me-time in bed. I now actually look forward to getting in bed a bit early and read a book.
It’s your choice and completely up to you whether you consciously make the choice to go to sleep or not. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Change the time you go to bed with little steps, for example 15 minutes each time. You’ll see that your body starts to get into sleep mode
Establish a bedtime ritual
Having a bedtime ritual helps to let your brain know that it’s almost time to sleep. My ritual looks something like this: I drink tea on the couch, then I take a shower (I love the feeling of literally washing off the day) and finally I read in bed.
If you can, dim the lights in your bathroom and in your bedroom. This helps to create a different atmosphere than bright lights and also tells your brain it’s bedtime.
Exercise has many benefits, and one of them is that it can help you sleep better. Especially exercising in the morning; this helps your body to know that it’s time to wake up. Natural daylight is also a contributor to better sleep, so it’s a win-win if you exercise outside!
Opinions are divided on whether or not exercising in the hours before bed impacts your sleep quality, so do try working out at different times of the day to see what works best for you.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
This one is quite obvious, but try to avoid having caffeine and alcohol at least three hours before going to bed. Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, but the sleep you’re getting is not as deep and you’re also more likely to wake up during the night.
Don’t be ashamed of taking a nap
Even with the best intentions, there are nights that you didn’t manage to get enough sleep. Whether you have noisy neighbours or you’re a mom with small children, it happens to all of us. And if it does: don’t be ashamed to take a nap during the day if you have the opportunity! A 20-30 minute nap can restore your alertness, boost your productivity and reduce stress. It’s not without a reason that companies like Google, Uber and the Huffington Post provide napping facilities to their staff.
What are you doing to get more sleep and sleep better?
Some TED talks about sleep I recommend to watch are: