Improving our sleep doesn’t just reduce our stress. Sleep plays a huge role in our health and our happiness. In fact, it’s one of the primary cornerstones of good health. When we aren’t well-rested, we eat more, make poor decisions, and have much less control over our reactions to people and situations.
Sleep disorders are one of the largest health problems in the United States and are linked to infection, insulin resistance, obesity, cancer, arthritis and mood diseases. Most people are having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, which translates to difficulties waking up or staying awake. That often leads to overuse of caffeine and sugar, which can interfere with our sleep. A nasty cycle.
It’s important during the day to avoid highly processed foods, avoid caffeine and sugar in the afternoon and evening, socialize, and get in some physical activity for better sleep. It’s also important to optimize your sleeping space by removing all TVs, electronics, and clutter. For now, we’re going to focus on the critical step of establishing a bedtime routine.
First, start by determining when you need to go to bed to ensure a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep based on when you need to be awake the next morning. Next, avoid eating or drinking anything within three hours of your bedtime. Then, end all work within two hours of your bedtime, and stop all screen time (yes, even your cell phone!) within one hour of your bedtime.
Finally, adopt a self-care practice for that final hour before bed. Some things to consider: journaling about your day, a relaxing bath, reading a book, meditation or deep breathing exercises, listen to calming music, aromatherapy.