As a goal-seeker and a productivity maven, you need to be at your best every day. To that end, you’ll need to be intentional about self-care. Here are five questions you can ask yourself about how to improve your sleep quality.
What’s going on in my environment?
- What is the temperature of your room? Research has shown that 65 degrees is the optimal temperature for sleeping.
- What position am I using to sleep? Is there better position? Do I have a bed and a pillow to support good — or better — positioning?
- Am I exposed to blue light from my electronic devices? Research has shown that exposure to blue light can affect your level of melatonin, and hence your ability to get to sleep, or stay asleep.
- Is there light from the street or from within your house that you scarcely notice? It could be interfering with your sleep. Try blackout drapes for a very reasonable price, and/or use an eye mask like this Manta mask. (I always use a sleep mask.)
- Is there noise coming from the street or from within your house? I’m not keen on ear plugs, but I do use white noise.
- What about altering your environment? I love dabbing a few drops of lavender on my pillow at night.
What am I eating and drinking?
- Do you eat food too late at night or are you eating the “wrong” foods? If so, that could interfere with sleeping.
- When do you stop drinking caffeinated beverages? (My personal stop sign is 11 am, but in my younger days, I didn’t really pay attention to that at all!)
- What about alcoholic beverages? Research has shown having alcohol within an hour before bed can reduce melatonin production by 20%.
- When are you consuming water? Sure, water is important for every bodily process, and humans should have about 64 ounces per day. But it’s best to front load your water intake. Otherwise, you’ll have the urge to get out of bed and visit the bathroom.
What’s going on in my head or my life?
- What’s your mood? If you have depression, you might have trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep. Everything from aromatherapy to a prescription medication to psychotherapy can be helpful for you.
- Are you just generally anxious? I routinely use an app for self-hypnosis. Many of these are free, or very low cost. (Like less than the price of a fancy coffee.) My favorites are from Andrew Johnson or Max Kirsten.
- Do you have chronic pain? If so, consider the biofeedback app, Flowly. Like most natural remedies, this takes time to work. But if you stick with it, you’ll be rewarded. (I have no affiliation with this company, I just love their product.)
- Do you have some problem continually swirling around in your brain? Believe me, you have the answer; you’re just not able to retrieve the answer. So, before you fall asleep, ask your subconscious: How can I [fill in the blank]? Your brain likes to get answers. Start by giving it a clear directive of what problem it’s supposed to solve.
- Are you feeling angry, resentful, or otherwise negative about a person or situation in your life? That’s a lot of baggage to carry with you at night. As the saying goes, “Never let the sun set on your anger.” Forgive the person, forgive yourself, and count your blessings. You can’t be grateful and hateful at the same time.
What am I doing during the day?
- If you’re overtired at night, sometimes it can be hard to fall asleep. Consider a 20-minute “power nap” around lunchtime. In his book, Rest, Dr. Alex Pang encourages naps, and there’s ample evidence to support the benefits of napping.
- Are you getting enough exercise? Daily exercise has been shown to improve the quality of sleep.
Are there any cool things I’ve never tried, but should consider?
Yes, these days, there are all sorts of helpful things you might never have considered to improve your sleep. These include:
- Use a sunlight alarm. The light exposure it emits is called a zeitgeber. I’ve never used one, but I admit, I’ve thought about it!
- Buy a weighted blanket. Some small studies have suggested that, like a hug, weighted blankets help to “cuddle” you, thus calming your sympathetic nervous system. Examples include the Gravity Blanket, or the Tranquility blanket.
- Track your sleep. You could do this with your phone, a fitness tracker or even a smart bed. Popular sleep tracking apps include : SleepScore (Android and iOS), Sleep Cycle (Android and iOS) and Sleep Time (Android and iOS). If you own a Fitbit, Apple Watch or Motiv Ring you already have built in sleep tracking.
- If you or your partner snore, seek medical attention to rule out sleep apnea or some other disorder. In many cases, though, allergies or sleeping position may be an explanation. There are several anti-snoring devices on the market that you might want to try, or ask your bed partner to try.
Okay, that’s a lot to consider! Can you name just one thing you might want to try to improve your sleep?