By Lily Montasser
When it comes to our health, few things are as important as getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep aids brain and immune system function, improves skin appearance, prevents weight gain, and is overall an essential pillar for a healthy life. But modern life has made getting a good night’s sleep anything but easy. Whether it’s working late hours or scrolling on our devices to pandemic alcohol intake (or is that just me?), getting some good quality Z’s is more difficult than ever.
Whether you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or just keep waking up tired even after a full seven hours—the answer might lie in creating a bedtime ritual.
Creating a routine will help prepare your mind and body for sleep. Not only does it physically bring your body into a more relaxed state, but it’s a signal to your brain that the day is over and that it’s time to rest. Even if you don’t suffer from sleep issues, creating a nighttime ritual is a daily act that prioritizes your wellness, and we could all use more of that.
Put your gadgets away one hour before bed
Our technology devices are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to sleep disruption. The blue light emitted from our tech suppresses the secretion of melatonin—the hormone responsible for managing your circadian rhythm (i.e., your body’s internal sleep clock). Not only are those late-night YouTube binges keeping you up because you’re knee-deep in the algorithm, but they’re also messing with your body’s natural signals that prime your body for bed. So, put those devices down and spend some time off-screen.
Make a cup of herbal tea
Herbal teas have been used as natural sleep aids and remedies for centuries—and for a good reason! There’s something so relaxing and soothing about sipping a warm cup of tea. Chamomile tea is most well-known as an aid to fall asleep, but it’s also been used as a natural remedy to reduce inflammation and anxiety and treat insomnia. Another great option is Valerian root tea. It was used in England during World War II to relieve stress and anxiety, so it’s a healthy option to help you wind down. Lastly, consider trying Dandelion tea. It cleanses the liver, which balances blood sugar levels—a major player in insomnia and middle-of-the-night waking.
Take a magnesium supplement before bed
Magnesium does wonders for both your body and sleep. It helps maintain healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep and helps with stress reduction and mood stabilization. It’s also great for bone health, can help alleviate PMS, and reduces water retention, so you’re less bloated in the morning. Win!
Take a bath
Okay—I know that taking a long, leisurely bath every night isn’t realistic for most people. But whenever you have time, even if it’s just once a week, give yourself permission to enjoy a hot bath, especially after a particularly stressful day. It’s time you can set aside to totally unwind and disconnect. You deserve it.
Invest in nice pajamas
Dress for the job you want—or in this case, the sleep you want. Although sleep disorders are most often related to a biological issue, there can also be a mental component. Putting on nice pajamas is a signal to your brain that sleep is valued, respected, and something you look forward to. It’s also a great excuse to treat yourself!
In addition to the things you should do, here are some things you should avoid if you’re trying to improve your sleep quality.
DON’T overdo it on alcohol
Have you ever noticed you wake up in the middle of the night or in the wee hours after a night of drinking? Alcohol can cause or increase symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring, and disrupted sleep patterns, and it also alters your body’s circadian rhythm.
DON’T leave all your alerts and notifications on
With the whole world in our pockets, it can be hard to let your brain turn off from the day: email alerts, incoming texts, and endless scrolling on social media tend to keep us up and prevent us from getting a good night’s sleep. Try disconnecting yourself from the world at a set time every night. (Don’t worry, you can answer that text tomorrow.) Power down your computer. Log off Instagram (or temporarily delete the app). Turn your phone on silent.
DON’T live your life in your bedroom
If your bed is where you eat, sleep, hang out, and do work, you may be more prone to sleep issues. Avoid sending your body mixed signals by reserving your bedroom for sleep or sexy time—nothing more.
For more on the author, click here.