We all know that sleep is important but even scientists can’t be 100% sure about why it is. It’s a weird evolutionary quirk that, on the face of it, seems like a really bad idea. What if a predator were to sneak up on you while you’re catching 40 winks? But, given that evolution has clearly worked so far, perhaps asking why isn’t really relevant right now.
What we do know is that sleep is all about quality. Quantity is important to an extent and you will probably notice a few alarming side-effects of sleep deprivation, even if you only lose a couple of hours. But, even if you are getting the full 8-9 hours you need, if you don’t reach REM or you wake up frequently through the night, you are definitely going to feel it.
Hacking your sleep might sound extreme but look at the world right now. We are besieged by blue lights, phones grabbing our attention and stress running us down. It’s not just New York City that doesn’t sleep, the whole world is now so connected, it’s surprising any of us manage to sleep at all!
So, what can you do to improve your sleep instantly and where can you change your habits in the long term?
Regulate Your Sleep Pattern
Going to bed at the same time and rising at the same time is one of the best things you can do for your body. Humans love routine and our bodies are no different. While a lie-in might feel good, it probably isn’t compensating for sleep deprivation during the week as you thought.
If you are struggling to sleep, taking a supplement or sleeping tablet might help. Melatonin is a hormone that triggers your body to nod off so this is what you should be looking for in the natural supplements you choose. However, you may find that all you need is something to connect with the desire for sleep. For example, lavender has long been used to induce sleep and though the mechanics are sketchy, as a potential placebo effect, it is remarkably effective.
Set the Mood
Setting the mood is a really important part of going to bed. You have to be ready to shut your head off for a few hours and you won’t manage that if you are still stressing about the day and everything still on your to-do list. Some people find that meditation before bed is the best way to relax and still that spinning mind.
Similarly, doing some light stretches before bed can offer a sort of mindful space and help to relieve muscle tension. If you often struggle to get comfortable in bed because you are aching and feeling the pressure of the day, taking this time to lengthen your body and relax those muscles will significantly improve your sleep quality.
Finally, you need to be ready to sleep. In an ideal world, you should avoid blue light at least an hour before bed – that means all kinds of screens. Reading a paperback book is a good way to start relaxing your eyes and escape your problems too. If this doesn’t sound like you, you might like to try a sleep story and just listen instead.
Perfect Your Bedroom
Even if you do all of this and you make significant changes to your lifestyle, it won’t mean anything if your bedroom is a disaster zone. Your room should be cool, calm and dark for the best sleep. This means that you should make sure that the space is tidy and, ideally, as empty as possible. Hiding your stuff in subtle storage is the ideal solution.
Making your room dark is another priority. Having the right blinds and curtains will help to block out unnatural light sources and will allow you to sleep soundly through the night. You might also like to consider earplugs if you are frequently woken by noises during the night – particularly if you have a snoring partner to contend with!
The more you can do to make your bedroom into a sanctuary, the more you will find your sleep improves. Indeed, the more you perfect your lifestyle for good sleep, the better. However, do be cautious about over-thinking. People who worry unduly about their sleep tend to stress themselves out and end up causing their own bad sleep.
The best thing you can do is to put everything in place for a good night and then let nature do her thing.
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