I have a passionate love affair with my bed – it’s so difficult to escape its caresses in the morning! It’s a little easier if I’ve had a good night’s sleep though. Poor sleep also makes your brain function worse, encourages weight gain, and stuffs up your skin.
Here are some ways to help you sleep good, think good and look good too…
Train your body
Your body operates on a cycle called the circadian rhythm – it instinctively knows to wake up during the day and sleep at night. If you sleep and wake up at roughly the same time every day, it’ll learn to get sleepy/wake up at the right times – a weekend sleep-in is tempting but can cause your body clock to shift, similar to jet lag.
Get ready for bed
Set aside some time to transition to sleeping. Stress causes the body to release cortisol which increases alertness – the opposite of what you want. Read a book, listen to music, meditate, write in a diary, plan what you’re doing tomorrow. If your mind is preoccupied with random crap you have to do, write it down – studies have found that simply writing it down will clear your mind!
Avoid electronic devices before bed (or hack them)
Computer and phone screens emit a lot of blue light, which signals “daytime” to your brain, increasing alertness and shifting your natural rhythm out of sync with the actual time. The best thing to do, of course, is to stop using them for a few hours before bed, but if you’re an internet addict like me, you can use a program like f.lux or Twilight to filter out blue light and tint your screen red.
Make your bedroom a sleep haven
Your body’s natural rhythms are very sensitive to light, so excluding light from your room is very important – thick curtains or an eye mask can make a huge difference. (This can also help you wake up – if there’s little light outside your room, keeping your curtains open and letting natural sunlight in in the morning can help you wake up more gradually.) If you have any flashing LEDs on electronics, try covering them up as well – a post-it or a blob of Blu-tack works great!
Of course, having a comfortable mattress and pillow will help as well. You spend about 1/3 of your life in bed – you should invest in making it pleasant!
Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime
Avoiding caffeine is a no-brainer – caffeine is a stimulant so it keeps you up. Interestingly, while alcohol initially makes you woozy, after a few hours it actually makes you more awake, which means you’re more likely to have that horrible 3 am wide-awake moment.