By Mark Zhang
We all know the awful feeling of not being able to fall asleep at night. Whether it’s a never-ending to-do list running through your mind, or random thoughts that just keep popping up, some nights it seems like you may never get to sleep. And now that March National Sleep Awareness Month is in full swing, are you wondering how you can optimize your sleep hygiene so you can live your best life?
In my experience as the founder of Manta Sleep mask and as a leader of the Pro-Nap Movement that celebrates all of the benefits of a daily nap, I have discovered a number of tried-and-true ways to amplify your sleep routine. Here are seven things you can do to help minimize your tossing and turning, both before and after bed.
1Take a Bath 90 Minutes Before Bed
According to Science Daily, biomedical engineers have found that people who take a warm bath about 90 minutes before bedtime are able to fall asleep faster. Our bodies have a natural temperature cycle that correlates with our circadian rhythms — and we like to have a slightly cooler body temperature right before sleeping. Baths help because increasing your body temperature as you bathe actually results in your body cooling down to the perfect sleep temperature after your bath, right as you’re falling asleep. Try sudsing up tonight and see how it affects your sleep. Extra points if you use a calming scent in your bath, like lavender or chamomile.
2Give Yourself a Caffeine Cut-Off Time
While reaching for a hit of caffeine may help you get through the rest of your workday, it’s likely affecting your ability to sleep. Caffeine has a half-life of about 5 hours — so if your go-to pick-me-up is a 4 o’clock java, approximately half of that caffeine would still be in your system at 9 p.m. Some people do metabolize caffeine quicker than others and aren’t as affected by the jitters or energy boost that it provides (you know who you are!). However, it’s more likely that you don’t fully realize how much your afternoon coffee fix impacts your ability to wind down at night. According to Mission.org, even if you don’t physically feel the effects of caffeine at bedtime, it may still be in your system. This week, try giving yourself a caffeine “cut-off” time of at least 6 hours before bedtime. The earlier, the better!
3Switch Up Your Nighttime Beverages
Sipping on a nightcap or having a couple of glasses of wine after dinner may seem like it’s helping you sleep… however, alcohol actually disrupts your sleep cycles. Alcohol may indeed help you to fall asleep faster, but it also can wake you up in the middle of the night and prevent you from getting into the deep REM sleep that your body needs to feel fully rested. Instead of having alcohol before bed, try having a warm and calming drink, like herbal tea or a turmeric latte.
4Shut Down Your Electronics 1-2 Hours Before Bed
Whether it’s scrolling through social media on our phones or squeezing in one last Netflix show, electronics tend to rule our lives — and you’re likely constantly surrounded by them in your home. The problem? Your devices give off blue light, which is a type of light that tells your body to wake up. That’s helpful in the morning — not so much when you’re trying to sleep. If you can, try turning off the screens 1-2 hours before bedtime and pull out a book instead. And if ditching your laptop and phone for a couple of hours before bed isn’t an option, try blue light blocking glasses.
5Try Meditation or Deep Breathing
You may already be a pro meditator, or you may be one who thinks it’s just for the yoga crowd. But whether you realize it or not, meditating (or even just deep breathing) can help you to fall asleep. We’re all prone to racing thoughts that won’t calm down — so if you’re affected by this, know that you’re not alone. Counting to ten and focusing on your inhalation and exhalation as you breathe can help your body relax almost immediately. Repeat until you’re fast asleep.
6Keep a Notepad by Your Bed
Sometimes we can’t fall asleep at night because we’re thinking of all the things we need to do tomorrow or didn’t get done today. If you’re one of those people, keeping a notepad with a pen on your nightstand can help. Jot down everything that’s on your mind to get those thoughts out of your head. Just knowing that the list is there for tomorrow and that you won’t forget anything can help your mind to relax, calm down and get to sleep.
7Make Sure Your Room Is Dark, Quiet and Cool
There’s nothing worse than trying to sleep in a hot room with all sorts of lights and noises going on around you — so do your best to keep your room dark, quiet and cool. A white noise machine can help to drown out the noises of the night (especially if you live in a noisy building or in the city) while creating the perfect atmosphere for good sleep. Make your room as dark as possible by investing in blackout shades or a sleep mask that blocks out all light. Finally, keep the temperature of your room cool and consistent. Studies have shown that people sleep better in a room that is slightly chilled (we all know the feeling of not being able to sleep when it’s hot and humid!).
To Wrap It All Up
This March National Sleep Awareness Month, make it a top priority to optimize your own sleep hygiene. Whether it’s a warming tea, a bath before bed, trying your hand at meditation, or keeping your room dark and cool, there are plenty of things you can do to help your body and mind relax and get a good night’s sleep.
Mark Zhang is the CEO & founder of Manta Sleep mask, the only mask designed, constructed, and optimized for deepest-possible sleep in any environment. Manta Sleep masks provide 100% blackout for maximized sleep quality — so users feel 100%, all the time. A leader of the pro-napping movement, Mark educates others on why an afternoon nap is crucial for unlocking one’s full potential, why business owners should allow their team members to nap each day, tips to improve sleep quality, and much more.