You already burn the candle pretty hard at both ends. Even though you stick to your early bedtime, you could stand to get a better sleep. You’re out for 7 or 8 hours in each night but you still have to peel yourself off the mattress in the morning.
Fortunately, you can do many simple things to help you fall into a deeper, more restful sleep. I say “simple” because it’s not like signing up for a class. You don’t need to cram more into your schedule, and you can get started today.
Better Sleep Tip #1 – Prep Tomorrow’s Day for Future You
Staying in bed after you wake up offers many temptations. Not only is it comfy and warm, but once you get up you have to do stuff.
First thing in the morning… who wants that? Nobody.
You can lighten this load by preparing some of your tomorrow tasks before you go to bed. There are some things that seem small, but they go a long way in helping to jump-start your morning.
Prep the coffee maker
Making coffee is a crucial part of the morning. Everything seems to be at a standstill until you hear that gurgle, then the kitchen starts to smell glorious.
Of course, drinking coffee in the morning won’t get you that better sleep at night. This is part of streamlining your routine to make things easier for “future you.”
Trying to clean and fill the coffee maker when you’re bleary-eyed and still half-asleep is a begrudging task. But when you set this up before you go to bed, the morning becomes a one-click coffee wonderland.
You just have to make sure the pot and the basket are nice and clean, fill it up with water, and put some grounds in a fresh filter. It’s a piece of cake at night when your brain is already online.
Write down tomorrow’s to-dos
Winding down for a good sleep is tricky. We are a culture of doers and goers – we usually put most of our energy into our waking life, then we slump down in the bed as some exhausted amateur sleeper.
And we all know – no matter how tired we are – our brain believes that mattress time is the right time to do a mental review. What a great time to review everything you could have done better, and to pressure you about how much you didn’t get done.
The trick is not to get more done. The to-do list is ravenous, and it seems to get longer with each accomplished task.
But you can help to put it in its right time and place. To-dos do not belong in your solace of slumber. Before you go to bed, sit down and write a list of everything you need to do, want to do, didn’t do, whatever is floating around on top.
Then let it go.
This part can be tricky. You don’t want to write it down and then go to bed mentally optimizing it while you should be sleeping.
You want to write it down so you can leave it there. Leave it on the page and respect the fact that it’s exactly where it needs to be – waiting for you tomorrow.
Better Sleep Tip #2 – Turn the Lights Down
Our circadian rhythm is what manages our energy. This is another “right time and place” issue. Our body is designed to go to sleep and wake up with the sun.
We have so many artificial lights around now, that our poor body can’t always figure it out. Even our skin is sensitive to the light, so when your body thinks its daytime and then you try to make it go to sleep instantly, it’s not going to work.
Turn Off Screens 1 Hour Before Bed
Screens are everywhere. And many people use them as entertainment while they’re in the last few minutes of the day. This does two things – exposes us to that artificial daytime, and keeps our brains active with busy input.
There are blue light blockers for computers and phones – like f.lux – and they do help. But it’s best for your sleep if you just cut out the distraction altogether.
Put your screens to bed an hour before you go to bed. Allow your eyes and your brain time to unwind from their long day of working and thinking. Let your conscious mind decompress before you hand the wheel to the unconscious.
Turn off the lights and light the candles
Artificial lights are much brighter than our eyes need to see. While the light bulbs in your house are nowhere near as bright as the daytime sun, they’re still overkill. You don’t need much to make your way around the house in the evening.
When you turn off your screens for the night, go ahead and turn off all of your electrical lighting as well.
Lumens are a measurement for light output. To show you just how much you’re getting at night, we’ll compare the lumens from light bulbs vs candles.
- The light from just one electric light bulb measures around 840 lumens.
- The light from one candle measures around 12 lumens.
- That’s 70x more light from an electric bulb!
Even just a few tea lights in the room are enough to make your way around. The light level of a candle is so low that it doesn’t keep us in “daytime” mode, but our eyes can see just fine.
This allows your eyes to adjust to the low light, and your body to start delivering some melatonin to prep you for that better sleep.
Better Sleep Tip #3 – Stretch Your Legs
Our routines keep us in chairs a lot of the time. Our bodies weren’t meant to use all the comfy conveniences that make up our day. We have chairs everywhere! Just about every room in the house has a place to sit.
Sounds nice, but our body was designed to sit on the ground. Not only sit, but to get down on the ground, stand up from it. This doesn’t seem like much but when you do this over and again each day, your legs and hips get movement and stretching in ways that chairs don’t offer.
When you take your tight legs and hips to bed, your body can’t relax like it wants to. It may feel all the same to you, but you’re probably just used to the tension you carry every day. Even just a few minutes – literally two minutes – can make a big difference.
Stretch your hamstrings and calves
This is the prototypical leg stretch – the toe touch. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be able to touch your toes to get the benefit. All you need to do is:
- Grab something to help you get the reach you need – a belt will do just fine.
- Sit on the floor with one leg stretched in front of you, the other leg folded in.
- Take the belt in both hands and toss it around your foot.
- Lean forward and pull the belt until you feel your leg muscle stretch.
- Keep your leg straight and don’t round your lower back.
- Breathe! Keep your breath flowing in and out.
- Hold for a slow count of ten.
Switch legs, and do it again! You can do as many rounds of this as you like. Three stretches each side will go a long way.
If you’re already flexible enough to grab your foot, then don’t worry about the belt. Just reach and hold.
Stretch your hip flexors
If you think your legs are tight, your hips have it even worse. Chairs turn our hips into concrete shadows of their glorious best-selves. But, like the legs, just a little love will make a big impact. Just stay seated and follow these steps:
- Bend your knees and flop them down at your sides.
- Put the soles of your feet together in front of you.
- Keep the outside of your feet flat on the floor.
- Wrap your hands around your feet and flare your elbows out.
- Lean forward as you use your elbows to push your legs down.
- Breathe! And keep breathing.
- Hold for a slow count of ten.
Again, do this one for as many rounds as you like. Three rounds will be plenty for a quick release before you put yourself down for the night.
That’s it! If you want to upgrade your sleep, all you need to do is dim down the lights, do a few minutes prep, and a few minutes stretch. You’ll be surprised at how fresh your body feels when you take some time to let go of the tension – from your muscles and your mind.
And when you wake up and all you need to do is hit the “go” button on the coffee maker, your morning will be a dream come true.
There are so, so many more things you can do to help your body rest and honour your natural rhythm. What’s your favourite – what is your never-miss sleep habit that you think everyone should know?