How To Get a Good Night's Sleep

If you're not one to jump out of bed the moment the alarm goes off (you're just not a morning person, you say) it may have more to do with your quality of sleep than the time of day. Bad habits like watching TV, working on the computer, eating late or having one too many glasses of wine right before bed can make all the difference in how rested you feel the next morning. Here are a few tips to help you get a good night's sleep:

  1. Create a better sleep environment: Pay attention to how your body feels in the morning. Does your neck or back hurt? Do you feel heavy and stuffed up? You may need to adjust the firmness of your mattress or the size and shape of your pillows. (Try a buckwheat pillow perhap?) If you're stuffy and puffed up, you may be allergic to something in your bedding, like down or latex, or you may be responding to all the dust under your bed. (When was the last time you vacuumed there?) Get an air purifier and run it during the night or, if you don't want the white noise, run it a few hours prior to going to sleep.
  2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime: The caffeine part may seem obvious, but doesn't alcohol make you sleepy? While initially a few glasses of wine may put you to sleep, research shows that the effects of alcohol keep you from experiencing a deep sleep, and you'll probably wake up in the middle of the night after your body has mostly metabolized the alcohol. So finish drinking at least three hours before bedtime.
  3. Put away your work: Your bedroom is not for working. Turn off the computer, put away those notes, and turn off your phone at least an hour or two before bed. This will give you a chance to let go of your day and its anxieties and stresses so that you're not thinking about them (and staying awake!) in bed. Avoid other stimulating activities right before bed, too, like watching TV or listening to loud music.
  4. Establish a nightly ritual: Once you've tuned out your day, establish a nightly ritual to prepare for sleep. This might include taking a bath before bed, doing some deep breathing exercises, reading a book, or journaling.
  5. Sleep in total darkness: Use block-out blinds or heavy curtains to try and block as much light and sound as possible.
  6. Gear your evening meal towards relaxation and digestion: According to WHFoods.org, your evening meal should "emphasize low-to-medium glycemic index carbohydrates, such as whole-grain breads, rice, or pasta, yams, a mixed green salad, or lightly sautéed vegetables, include a small portion of a healthy fat-containing food, such as olive oil, avocado, or nuts or seeds or their oils or butters." It should also be eaten about 4 hours before bedtime so that the main digestive effort is finished, but the energy from these foods can be released gradually throughout the night. If you do need a snack before bedtime, make it small cup of herb tea or warm milk, a small serving of fresh or dried fruit, or a small handful or raw nuts or seeds.

Share your tips for a healthy night's sleep with us below!

(Image: Eden's Art Deco Details on AT:SF. Originally published 2010-01-18)