A regular, restful sleep schedule is a critical part of overall health — but for many Americans, the idea of sleep is anything but relaxing.
According to the Sleep Foundation, up to 60 percent of adults struggle with chronic insomnia.
As those of us dealing with insomnia know too well, a sleepless night can dramatically affect our ability to function during the day. Chronic insomnia can cause irritability, poor concentration, headaches, anxiety, and even chronic disease.
But our bodies are programmed to start producing melatonin as it gets dark outside. Consequently, getting adequate natural sunshine when it’s light and establishing a consistent sleep schedule is paramount to aligning your circadian rhythm.
Here are our top tips for getting a restful night’s sleep—naturally:
Establish both a daytime and nighttime ritual.
Get outside as often as possible to soak up natural vitamin D during the day. In the hour or two before bedtime, make a point to focus on self-care and relaxation. What “relaxation” looks like differs from person to person — some of us like to unwind with Netflix and a cup of herbal tea, and some of us prefer meditation and a warm bath.
As part of your ritual, try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day (yes, weekends included). Our bodies are aligned with the circadian rhythms of sunset and sunrise, so we function best when adhering to a regular sleep schedule.
Focus on creating a good bedroom environment.
Another vital part of encouraging good sleep habits is to make sure your bedroom is as sleep-promoting as you can make it.
We can’t always control the amount of background noise at night (sometimes thunderstorms, city traffic, and snoring partners happen). If you’re sensitive to noise, consider investing in earplugs, a white noise machine or app, or a fan.
Blackout curtains and sleep masks can help if you’re blessed (and cursed) with a bedroom with lots of windows. If you find yourself tossing and turning with a sore neck in the morning, consider getting a new pillow or mattress.
Try to resist the urge to work or lounge in bed during the day and train your body to associate your bed with sleep and rest.
Reduce your blue (and green) light exposure in the evening.
With our bodies’ circadian rhythms, exposure to bright light during the day is beneficial—but at night, intense light can trick our bodies into thinking it’s daytime and disrupt sleep.
Electronic devices like computers and smartphones emit blue and green light. According to Healthline, too much blue light exposure at night can cause a decrease in your body’s natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin — meaning more trouble falling asleep.
Protective eyewear like SafetyBlue™ blockers can help filter the amount of blue and green light that reaches your eyes when looking at devices. For best results, wear your SafetyBlue™ blockers whenever you’ll be staring at a screen for a prolonged time, but especially during evening screen time if you’re concerned about the quality and duration of your sleep.
Save your worry for later.
For those of us active thinkers who have trouble turning our brains off at bedtime, advising us to “stop worrying” is a pointless exercise. Instead of aiming to stop worrying entirely, do your best to save your planning, plotting, and strategizing for the 16 hours when you’re awake.
Before beginning your nighttime ritual, make a list of everything on your mind. When you’re writing it down, think of it as leaving your head, emptying it on the page so you can make room for sleep and rest. No one does their best thinking in a panic in the middle of the night — and there’s no 4 AM thought that couldn’t wait until breakfast time.
Our bodies are built to wake during the day and sleep at night, and the first step to getting your sleep habits back on track is to recognize and strive to regulate that.
Sleeping isn’t a test, and a bad night isn’t a failure. Take some time to listen to your body and what it finds relaxing, and think of nighttime as an opportunity to nurture those things.
The rest—and your rest—will fall into place!