The best beauty practice? Sleep. The best weight loss program add-on? Sleep. The best immune-booster? Sleep. The best anti-aging practice? Sleep, sleep, sleep! We know this broken record will probably annoy most people, because quality, restorative rest doesn’t always come easy. However, there are some tricks you can adopt — and turn into healthy habits — that will make wind-down time go a little smoother.
More doesn’t always mean more
Firstly, let this notion comfort you: More sleep doesn’t always equal good sleep. If you’re beating yourself up because you can never maintain a solid 8 or 9 hours of rest, hold the phone. Not everyone’s sleep habits were created equal. We all embrace our very own bio-individuality that dictates how much sleep each person needs, and that number can vary — by a lot. It’s a good idea to start testing how much sleep feels ideal to you.
Your best friend — the one that always falls asleep at 10 and wakes up at 8am — might need extra sleep. And your dad, who has always been an early riser, waking up chipper and ready for work, only gets a measly 5.5 hours. The numbers of hours are entirely dependent on your personal needs, so feel it out. Some people find that their magic number is 6 or 7, and that amount feels completely adequate to them. If you’re suffering from insomnia or feel you’re sleeping way too much (think 10 hours or more each night), talk to your doctor. It could mean something else is going on.
It’s so tempting to catch a few more of those precious z’s in the morning, especially when our eyes simply refuse to open. But hitting snooze actually does more damage than good. First of all, we aren’t slipping into a restorative, helpful sleep — in fact, we are confusing our natural sleep rhythms by entering the beginning of our sleep cycle again, even though we are only resting our eyes for a few more moments. This habit causes us to produce sleep hormones for a deeper rest that we won’t actually have the chance to experience, making us feel super groggy — AKA sleep inertia.
When that alarm sounds, or the first time you feel wakefulness on a sleep-in weekend, allow yourself to rise. This will help program you to wake up at the first sound of your alarm in the near future, instead of feeling the temptation to keep snoozing.
Get circadian (this means limit your screen time!)
So we know that in ye olden days, people rose with the sun and wound down with the moon. That’s because they were chillin’ by candlelight, of course — and we are blasted (or is it blessed?) with electricity, bringing us bright lights, glaring screens, and the world wide web at our fingertips at literally any moment.
Our bodies are delightfully programmed to get sun in our eyes bright and early, which triggers melatonin production 16 hours later when it’s time to knock out. Rising with the sun will get light in your eyes at the right hour (that’s right, no black out curtains). And while an early morning walk or run doesn’t hurt, simply sipping your coffee while enjoying the morning light and view from your porch or window will do. For bedtime, limiting your exposure to bright lights after a certain hour (let’s say, 9ish and on) will have a huge impact on your ability to sleep through the night.
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day will help your body acclimate to a set schedule, allowing yourself to fall asleep faster and stay asleep for quality, restful sleep each night. Think of it as sleep programming: We are teaching our bodies when it’s time to rest and restore –and when it’s time to rise. This will create a healthy pattern that will reflect in the rest of your daily practices.
Try breathing practices
Box breathing — which is 4 counts each of inhalation, hold, exhalation, and hold — is shown to reduce cortisol and adrenaline, slow heart rate and basal body temperature, and deeply relax both our minds and bodies. This is great for those who suffer nighttime anxiety that surges high-energy stress hormones, making it difficult — if not impossible — to drift off into quality rest, or for those who just want a little extra chill time with themselves.
Practicing breath control, retention, and diaphragmatic breathing is a great opportunity to tune into your breath and reach a meditative state for a peaceful sleep. Theta brain waves are produced when we meditate, as well as when we are sleeping. Think of it as a restful night’s sleep pre-game session.