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You know sleep is important for your overall health.
When you sleep, your brain and body rest and recharge. Your memories consolidate and are stored in long-term memory. You function better, and feel better, when you are well-rested.
You have probably heard that the amount of sleep needed varies by age and person. Babies need up to 17 hours of sleep. Teens need 8 to 10 hours. Adults need 7 to 9 hours.
Although we often focus on quantity of sleep, there is more to sleeping than counting the hours.
Quality sleep is just as important as quantity – perhaps even more so when you feel the need to go nonstop, get things done, and not drop the glass balls you are juggling.
Yet what do you do when you have trouble sleeping?
How do you focus on getting quality sleep when life and work become overwhelming or extremely stressful?
Here are five sleepy time things to add to your must do list.
How to Celebrate National Sleep Awareness Month and National Sleep Awareness Week
1. Write down your to dos, to don’ts, and whatever else comes to mind.
Before going to bed, clear your head by writing down your thoughts. Use pen and paper, a notes app, text messaging app, email, voice recording software, or any other method you prefer.
The goal is to get the information out of your head and onto another medium.
Whether you are thinking about your grocery list, work tasks, household chores, or the dramatic events of the day, write it down or record it.
Otherwise, you may spend precious minutes, or hours, ruminating about things you cannot do or change at the moment.
You should be sleeping.
Whatever you have to do will be waiting for you when you awaken.
Clear your mind so you can focus on sleep.
2. Make your sleeping area a sleep-focused haven.
Think about how you use your sleeping area.
Is it the place where you sleep, watch your favorite shows, complete your work, or eat your dinner?
Is it truly a sleeping area, or is it a catchall space for other activities?
Is it a multi-purpose space, or a sleep-focused haven?
Whether your sleeping area is a bedroom, the corner of a studio apartment, or a couch by day and your bed by night, when it is time to sleep, your sleeping area should signal to your body that it is time to sleep.
To activate your sleep triggers, eliminate activities in your sleeping area that do not focus on sleep (e.g., studying, answering work emails, playing video games).
If you study or work from home, set up a desk, table, or designated workspace where you complete your work. Avoid working while in bed.
If you live in a studio apartment, use a majority of the multi-purpose space for entertaining, dining, and working. Use your sleeping area for sleeping.
If you sleep on a couch or in a comfy chair, use accent pillows for everyday sitting and different pillows for sleeping. Have one blanket for cuddling during movie time and a different blanket for sleepy time.
If you need to change the lighting, bedding, or furniture to remind you of sleep, do so.
Your sleep area should be relaxing, calming, and sleep-inducing.
Make your sleep area a one-purpose space instead of a multi-purpose catchall.
3. Establish a sleep routine.
Are there things you do before going to bed?
Do you brush your teeth or read a novel? Do you tuck your kids in or turn out the kitchen lights? Do you send goodnight text messages to the ones you love?
Whatever you do consistently before going to sleep is part of your routine.
Use your sleepy time routine to enhance or highlight activities that focus on sleep.
Set a specific sleep time and stick to it. If necessary, set a sleepy time alarm to remind you it is time to wind down and prepare to sleep.
Turn off your electronic devices or put them on do not disturb mode.
Close the curtains. Dim the lights. Turn on a sound machine. Take a relaxing bath.
If your sleep area is multi-purpose by necessity, establishing a sleep routine is vital.
If the couch is your bed, go through the same process of setting up your bed each night.
If you work where you sleep, transition from working to relaxing by shutting off work devices and clearing away paperwork.
If you share your sleeping space with someone, inform them of your routine and encourage them to establish a routine that works in harmony with yours.
Through trial and error, learn which parts of your routine help you sleep better and which parts should be eliminated.
There is not a one size fits all sleep routine.
Figure out what works for you and establish your own pre-sleep behavioral pattern.
4. Make comfort a priority.
Comfort is an essential element to falling asleep, staying asleep, and enjoying sleep.
If you have a lumpy or sagging mattress, get rid of it or find a mattress topper that makes your bed more pleasant to sleep in.
If you need extra support for your head or back, get a sleep pillow that works with your sleep position (i.e., side, back, stomach).
If there is too much light in your sleep haven, get blackout curtains or wear an eye mask.
Whatever you need to do to make sleepy time comfort a priority, do it.
You may have to experiment with different types of linens, curtains, pillows, or mattresses.
If possible, find an item that has a money back guarantee, free trial, or generous return policy. If the product does not work for you, return it.
As with a sleep routine, there is not a one size fits all to sleeping comfortably.
Experiment and find out what works for you.
5. Get your mind and body ready for bed.
Get yourself in a sleepy state of mind.
Before bed – or while in bed – do stretches, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
If a warm beverage relaxes your mind and body and puts you in the mood for sleep, drink a cup of herbal tea or another caffeine free beverage.
If visualizing a serene scene makes you relax, use imagery to help you fall asleep. Visualize a sunset on the beach, a cool mountain breeze, falling autumn leaves, or gentle ripples on a lake. Get creative and use your imagination.
If you need inspiration for your visualization, search online for calm, serene images. Find an image that appeals to you and visualize it as you unwind and settle down to sleep.
Clear your mind, relax your body, and focus on quality, restorative sleep.