There are many things that would make it on the list of reasons for worsened sleep quality, but a global pandemic (and all its consequences) would no doubt soar to the top. You may be feeling heightened levels of stress and anxiety, or your new work schedule might be messing with your bedtime. Whatever the reason, here are 10 things you can try so you can sleep like a baby tonight.
1. Watch your caffeine window.
Good sleep habits actually begin in the early morning. Downing a double-shot at 6 AM is completely fine, but remember that “once in the body, caffeine will persist for several hours: it takes about 6 hours for one half of the caffeine to be eliminated,” according to the Sleep Foundation. That means you need to give your body 12 hours to completely eliminate the caffeine in your system. If your bedtime is 10 PM, that means no more coffee by 10 AM.
2. Begin winding down one to two hours before bedtime.
As your bedtime approaches, begin to calm your mind by avoiding things that may trigger your brain. That means no more horror movies, distressing news programs, or even smartphone scrolling (this is hard, though!), as the blue light from your screens blocks the melatonin hormone from making you sleepy. Instead, try curling up with a book or magazine, cuddling your pet, or spending quiet time on the couch with loved ones.
3. Invest in a good scented candle or aroma diffuser.
According to Michael J. Breus, PhD, essential oils can play a role in relaxation and calmness, which helps set an environment for better sleep. “Only smell moves directly to the brain’s emotion and memory center. That’s why those memories you associate with the scent of garden roses, or banana bread baking in the oven, come on so quickly and so strongly,” said Breus. Lavender oil is a popular choice, but you can also look into chamomile, “thieves” (a mix of five essential oils), and more. It totally depends on you! We’d recommend avoiding citrus scents, though, since those tend to induce alertness rather than relaxation
4. Practice meditation before bed.
A great way to take stock of the day that’s passed and bring it to a proper end is meditation. It helps you become aware of your true feelings and will help you live a more mindful existence. From free apps like Headspace to guided YouTube sessions, there are plenty of beginner-friendly ways for you to introduce meditation into your life. Oh, and rid yourself of the notion that you need to meditate while Indian sitting and humming “om.” According to Headspace founder Andy Puddicombe, you can meditate while lying down in bed.
5. Invest in better pillows…
Remove those pillowcases and check your pillows. Is the filling clumped? Is the outer covering yellowed? When you apply pressure with your fist, does the pillow no longer bounce back to its original shape? These are just some indicators that your pillows may no longer be working for you. If your pillow is too soft and your head sinks down too much, this means your neck isn’t aligned with your spine. If your pillow is too firm and your head is tilted too high, your neck isn’t aligned either. “Choose a pillow that will keep the neck aligned with the chest and lower back,” advises the University of Rochester Medical Center.
6. ..and a good sleep mask.
According to a 2011 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, exposure to light can suppress the onset of melatonin by about 90 minutes. A good sleep mask will block all light (even the tiniest slivers) and prevent sleep disruption. That means investing in a good one, not the novelty kind you can find at the checkout lane of an accessories store! It must properly fit your face, adjust to the contours of your nose, and be soft and comfortable.
7. Settle down with a nightcap.
A great way to look forward to bed is to assign a drink that you can only have at bedtime. For some, it might be their favorite Yogi tea. For others, it could be a golden milk mix. Over time, the smell and taste of this tea will signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. Anything works, as long as it’s not alcohol- or caffeine-infused!
8. Strip down.
According to a study from the University of Amsterdam, lowering your skin temp helps to increase sleep quality and reduces wakeup times in the middle of the night. In a tropical country like ours, sleeping naked will *definitely* make a difference, moreso if you have the A/C on. Also, this means that you don’t need to fidget with too-tight waistbands, annoying buttons, or even underwear as you toss and turn your way into slumber. Just your skin against your soft sheets. Sounds amazing, right?
9. Wink, wink!
Well, you knew we’d end up here. Studies have shown that people who engage in sexual activity before bed may enjoy better sleep quality! It has to do with the hormones released when you orgasm, like oxytocin, which help you feel calm and relaxed. Now when you nudge the hubby for a little pre-slumber lovin’, you can say “It’s scientifically proven!”
10. Try some melatonin.
You may have heard of melatonin before: it’s the naturally-occurring hormone that’s responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles. “As we get older, we lose melatonin, so we don’t sleep well at night. That’s the only time our body can regenerate and rejuvenate, so we really have to sleep well. But guess what? Melatonin really helps with immunity, [and] it’s anti-inflammatory. It’s important to take this usually about 30 minute to 1 hour before we want to sleep,” recommends Dr. Vicki Belo. You can easily get melatonin supplements from your local drugstore, or you can get it as part of the Formula VB Immunity Kit.
Whether you follow one or all 10 of these suggestions, we hope that you get your zzz’s in, and soon. After all, nothing assures you of a great day quite like a good night’s sleep. Good night and sleep tight, Belo Beauties!