3 key ingredients for good sleep
HEALTH & HAPPINESS, SLEEP
We’ve all been there—tossing and turning, willing our tired bodies to hit the sack when it refuses shuteye. To help, we turn to sleeping pills, herbal remedies, over-the-counter sleep meds and other antidotes.
But the truth: we already have everything within ourselves to get a good night’s sleep—it’s built into our amazing mechanism as human beings.
So why then do we still struggle to get good Zzz’s?
Most, if not all, slumber problems stem from not having one or more of three key sleep ingredients in place when it’s time for bed.
1. Feeling sleepy.
It may sound obvious, but many times we go to bed before we’re actually sleepy. And by “sleepy” I mean not just feeling tired or even exhausted, but where you actually find yourself nodding off.
And while our reasons for hitting the hay may seem sound: it’s your usual bedtime, your partner is going to sleep so you should too, or you want to get “the right” number of shuteye hours—if you’re not sleepy, you won’t sleep.
So how can you ensure your body is ready for lights out?
- Establish a set wake-up time. Generally, we need to be awake about 16 hours before we’re ready for sleep (assuming we’re already well-rested). The key? Having a set wake-up time and sticking with it.
It can be challenging at first, especially on the weekends, when all you want to do is stay in bed and sleep late. But your body will adjust after a few weeks—making it easier to wake up earlier (which means more time to enjoy your days off!).
- Stay active during the day. Engage in your life wholeheartedly. Put everything into your work, relationships and leisure activities. The more mentally and physically active you are during the day, the more tired you’ll be at night, and the easier sleepiness will come.
2. Allowing Yourself to Relax.
Relaxing in the evening is challenging for many. Life can be stressful and demanding, so when bedtime comes, we can still be wound up, making sleep feel impossible.
Here are a few tips to get relaxed before bed:
- Give yourself at least an hour to unwind.
It’s important to carve out this time for yourself. Mark it into your calendar so nothing else will take its place.
- Move your Body.
- Take a hot bath.
3. Listening to your sleep signals.
Many of us try to force sleep or expect it to come when we want it to. But just as our body will signal when it’s hungry, it will tell us when it needs sleep.
Unfortunately, we lose touch with this innate signal because we (unknowingly) interfere with our sleep by trying to make it come.
But your body will sleep when it’s ready.
Learning what to do, and not do, to reset your sleep cycle and being in touch with your body’s signals are fundamental to get and maintain a strong, consistent and healthy sleep pattern.
For more details on how to achieve this and cultivate great sleep, listen to the introduction to Sleep Stories at www.calm.com and check out my story in the app.
Dr. Steve Orma is a clinical psychologist, recognized mental health expert, and specialist in the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, and stress.