Unless you sleep every single night like a bear hibernates during the winter, chances are your z’s could use an upgrade. I doubt I’ll be the first to tell you this, but sleep is one of the single most important factors of a healthy life, so if you’re not getting those solid hours in every night, read on.
Why is sleep so important? To sum it up quickly, when you sleep, your body goes into repair mode. Since you’re not using it for anything else, all of your body’s energy is devoted to fixing and creating, priming you for the next day. Your brain, for example, spends the hours you’re asleep creating new pathways to help you remember and learn. The time you spend snoring is also when your hormones balance themselves, your immune system defends against foreign invaders and your skin cells turn over so you wake up fresh and glowing. The bottom line here is that you need to be sleeping, and you need to be sleeping well. So if you find yourself waking up cranky and tired and run down every morning, a sleep overhaul is in order.
One easy way to get started? Take a look at your nighttime routine. Soft sheets and a fluffy blanket certainly can’t hurt your sleep (unless you like scratchy fabric and hard surfaces, weirdo), but sometimes it takes considering the things outside your bed to really figure out why your sleep isn’t as great as it could be. First, a few things to stop doing ASAP. Are you staring at your phone after you turn the lights off? Stop. Do you leave the TV on after you doze off? Stop. Drink caffeinated beverages late into the afternoon? Stop. Go to bed at a different time every night? Stop. Sleep in a hot room with the lights on? Stop.
If you’re ready to honor yourself and your body with an amazing night’s sleep, here are a few easy things to incorporate into your nightly routine to get you started.
Ditch the screens (all of ‘em).
Those screens you love to stare at so much? They’re seriously messing with your sleep. Phones, tablets, computers and televisions all emit blue light which affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and trick your body into thinking it’s daytime. Lower melatonin, less sleepy. Less sleepy, later to bed. Later to bed…you get the idea. I promise the world will keep spinning if you don’t look at your phone for a few hours. Social media feeds are infinite—everything will be there for you to “like” tomorrow.
Embrace the dark and quiet.
Similar to screens, the lighter your room is while you prep for bed, the harder time your brain will have communicating to your body that it’s time to sleep. So embrace your inner fancypants and treat yourself to a light-blocking eye mask. (Also make sure to turn off all overhead lights and lamps, and invest in curtains to filter sunlight in the morning. You can even find some that also diffuse outside noise.) Eye masks are also great for making sure any product you apply stays put so it can do its job and you wake up with puffiness- and dark circle-free eyes, like Mad Hippie’s Eye Cream.
Keep dinner and dessert light.
Eating a large, heavy meal right before bed means your body has to focus its energy on digesting said meal while you sleep instead of taking care of all that other really important stuff I mentioned earlier. By all means, eat whatever you’d like — just make sure it’s a few hours before you hit the hay. And if you have a sweet tooth, try a dream-boosting elixir or warm mug of tea instead of dessert. Replace your nightly bites of dark chocolate with Four Sigmatic’s Hot Cacao With Reishi to instantly calm the senses and promote relaxation with the mushroom’s stress-relieving properties. The wild-crafted herbs, plants and minerals in Moon Juice’s Dream Dust are basically a cozy blanket for your senses, and the soothing herbal formula the Lucid Dreaming Elixir from Anima Mundi is a bedtime story for your mind, all while tasting delicious.
Relax with a warm bath.
If your mind is racing while you lay in bed, sleep won’t be your friend. But if you think of your bed as a stress- and problem-free zone, you and sleep may as well get matching BFF tattoos. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but a great (and indulgent) place to start is with a nightly bath.
Not only will the warm soak be good for your skin, there’s also science behind the benefits of baths: A couple of hours before you sleep, your body temperature naturally starts to dip. Soaking in a warm tub will cause your body temperature to rise and then cool rapidly when you get out of the water, with the quick cool down serving as a natural relaxer.
Adding a little something to the water can also turn your soak into an aromatherapy session. Opt for something like the Detoxifying Bath Soak from Nicole Granato, which not only soothes the body, but also includes ultra-calming lavender essential oil. You can also add a few drops of Living Libations’ Sweet Sleep Serum, which seriously lives up to its name thanks to its comforting blend of lavender, tangerine and vanilla scents.
This process is one of baby steps; it’s likely you won’t have the BEST SLEEP OF YOUR LIFE tonight, even if you follow all of these guidelines. (If you do, that’s awesome! Told ya so.) But remember that eventually things will get better and sleep will get deeper and mornings will feel more rested.