For some of us, it's a vicious cycle—lack of sleep leaves us anxious and irritable, and then the dread of not falling asleep early enough to "catch up" on what you missed just exacerbates the worry.
Before you know it, you're beholden to both your morning alarm and your body's seemingly nonexistent circadian rhythm, trapped in that sleepless state where your body can't fully recharge for all the awesomeness it has to accomplish.
That said, we're hard-wired to sleep, which means that getting those eight hours is a matter of mind over matter that anyone of us can learn.
First, you've got to free your brain from the doubts and stressors that may be preventing you from turning off for the night.
It may help to keep a notebook next to your bed to jot down to-do lists or pre-sleep worries that build up into a state of sleep anxiety. Things feel altogether rosier once they're out of your head and on paper, and physically transferring troublesome thoughts to a space outside your mind helps you let go of today's setbacks and hold off on tomorrow’s demands.
But make sure to do it old school: Constant check-ins with a digital screen not only interrupt your body's natural circadian rhythm, they keep you hyper-aware of how must rest you’re losing as the seconds tick by.
Cover your alarm clock once you hop in bed so you're not tempted to track your progress into dreamland by the minute. If you really want to see how long it's taking you to doze off, install a sleep-tracking app on your smartphone and tuck it between your mattress and bottom sheet. In the morning, you'll have all the data you need without the self-monitoring that keeps you awake.
Not all gadgets are your friend in the hours before bedtime. In fact, the blue light emitted from your TV, computer, tablet, and smartphone can actually disrupt your body’s ability to produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
Try reading a book instead for a relaxing wind-down without the extra stimulation. If you can't stay away from the glow of a screen, install a night filter on your gadgets that tones down the blue light, and stay away from social media.
By virtually engaging with your social world, you stimulate conversational and interactive parts of your brain that want to shut down for sleep. The Instagrams and status updates will still be there in the morning, we promise.
Our brains respond to the physical cues of our bodies, so you can expedite the process by physically preparing your senses for sleep. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and protein-heavy meals very close to bedtime, as these stimulants may rile up your digestive and nervous systems and tell your brain to keep working overtime.
Similarly, try to exercise no later than three hours before bed. This way, your muscles, nerves, and heart rate have a chance to return to normal before you hit the sack. And the cooler you can keep the bedroom, the better. Obviously, you don't want to be shivering, but studies show the body is best primed for sleep in an environment between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
And remember you're a creature of habit, whether you like it or not. We respond best to scenarios of repeated behavior, so setting up a predictable pre-bed routine may be enough to train your brain to expect a good night's sleep.
Try a soothing ritual like a hot bath, ambient music, a tea from the New Twinings Infusion range or a bit of mindful meditation once your head hits the pillow. You'll set the stage for some decent shut-eye and your body and mind will follow suit before you know it.
The opinions expressed in this article are the authors own
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