Is your happiness connected to whether you got a good night’s sleep? You bet! If you are feeling a bit lethargic or sluggish and not particularly happy, the first thing to consider is your sleep routine.
As I lay wide awake in bed at 2 am, I cast back trying to think what I did to deserve this. Then, I realize that the decaf coffee I had after lunch with friends must have been the culprit. I’ve gotten so sensitive to caffeine that even decaffeinated coffee can be too strong. If you aren’t sleeping well, caffeine is always the first obvious culprit. It takes 48 hours to clear the caffeine in your system. If you had too many coffees the day before, you might find it makes for a poor night’s sleep. And if you are tired because you didn’t sleep well, the first thing you’ll reach for is…more caffeine!
To break this vicious cycle, you can cut down on caffeine gradually and wean yourself off it. Then it comes in handy for emergency situations, like having to get up early and drive to the airport. If cutting out caffeine doesn’t work for you, here is a list of simple things you can do to ensure a good night’s sleep.
1. Stick to a regular sleep schedule.
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will help regulate your body’s internal clock and make it easier to fall asleep and wake up.
2. Make your bedroom a haven.
Create the ideal sleeping environment. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Use quality organic cotton sheets and pillows, and invest in the most comfortable mattress you can find. You spend a third of your life in bed so make it a restful space.
3. Create a relaxing bedtime routine.
Try reading a book, taking a warm bath, or listening to calming music. Try practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. I like doing a bedtime yoga routine for a few minutes and writing in a journal to record the day’s events, even if it is just a line or two.
4. Avoid stimulating activities before bed.
Avoid activities that stimulate the mind, such as watching TV, using electronic devices, or working on the computer, for at least an hour before bed. If you must, make sure to wear glasses that protect you from the stimulating blue light of electronics or TV. My psychiatrist friend advised me not to watch any violent or scary films before bed. I didn’t think that would make a difference, but it did!
5. Limit or eliminate caffeine and alcohol.
Avoid consuming caffeine after noon, as that can interfere with a good night’s sleep. If that doesn’t work, then stop consuming caffeine altogether. (Remember that it can hide in tea, coffee, soda, sports drinks, and chocolate.) Alcohol may make you feel tired and sleepy, but if you find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night, it could be down to that glass of red wine you had earlier. Experiment and see what works best for you. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more sensitive to caffeine and alcohol. I can’t get away with the same quantities I’d drink in my youth without feeling the after-effects.
6. Get regular exercise.
Regular exercise can promote better sleep, but avoid vigorous activities right before bedtime as that can overstimulate you and keep you awake. I like to take a morning walk on the beach knowing that exposure to morning sunlight can help set your circadian rhythms, but If I miss that walk I can go for a lunchtime walk or an after dinner walk to aid digestion.
7. Avoid napping during the day.
Napping can make it harder to fall asleep at night. When you do nap, make sure it is only for 20 minutes. If I’m tired in the afternoon, I go for a brisk 20-minute walk outside to get some fresh air. If I’m still feeling tired, then I’ll rest with a meditation audio for 20 minutes.
8. Try a natural sleep aid.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, consider trying a sleep aid such as magnesium. (Be aware of the potential side effects and consult with your doctor if you have any concerns.) Lavender spray can also help you nod off.
9. See your doctor.
If you’re consistently having trouble sleeping, it may be helpful to speak with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Hormonal changes like menopause can also disrupt sleep.
Remember, sleep is critical for overall health and essential for happiness. It’s important to find what works for you and to establish a routine to get a good night’s sleep consistently. If you are a shift worker with an erratic schedule, talk to your boss about creating a regular schedule, even if that is a permanent night shift. Or, find a job that lets you get the sleep you need.