April is National Stress Month. That means it’s time to focus on what’s making us stressed and what we can do about getting rid of it. One of the biggest ways to combat stress is to make sure you’re healthy and well-rested.
I never really put much stock in the importance of sleep until I became a mom (read: I wasn’t getting any). I’ve never really been one to hit the snooze button repeatedly or sleep through my alarm. I don’t mind getting up early (as long as I get to decide what “early” means and not a cranky baby). Now I dream of a day that starts with the sing-song ringtone of my cell phone alarm, gently rousing me from my peaceful slumber. Instead, like most moms, I have my own personal living alarm clock. He’s a 2-year-old ball of relentless energy, and he gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “early riser.” Nowadays he actually wakes up in a good mood, so I don’t mind the least bit being woken up to the shouts of “Mommy! Mommy!”
The months of tortuous sleep deprivation that came with the first eight months of motherhood gave me a newfound respect for the one piece of my health I’d completely underestimated for most of my life sleep. According to the CDC, I’m not alone in this neglect: More than 25 percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep.
A good night’s sleep does more than keep unwanted bags from appearing under your red-rimmed eyes. Sleep can affect your energy levels, productivity, and even your weight. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
Not quite hitting the mark when it comes to sleep? Try these 8 tips to catch a great night of Zzz’s:
1. Stick with consistent bed times
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Don’t wait until you’re nodding off on the couch in front of the TV to drag yourself to bed. That means getting up at the same time on weekends, too. Sleeping in for a day or two may feel good at the moment, but in the long run, it messes with your internal clock and can leave you struggle to get out of bed the rest of the week.
2. Banish the artificial light
Ditch the screen before bed. The blue-hued light that subtly radiates from televisions, computers, and cell phones stimulates your brain and interferes with your ability to fall asleep. Power down before it’s time for bed. Even better, dim all the lights for a little while before you head to bed so you can signal to your body what’s about to happen.
3. Declutter your bedroom
This may sound like it has nothing to do with sleep, but clutter can equal mental chaos. That’s the last thing you need when you’re trying to fall asleep peacefully. Take some time during the day to get a handle on the clutter; your mind will thank you at night.
4. Get your heart pumping
Get plenty of exercise. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, vigorous exercise can help you sleep more soundly at night.
5. Create a cozy environment
Make your bedroom dark, dark, dark. Even ambient light from clocks and street lights outside your bedroom window can have an effect on your sleep. Use black-out shades or try a sleep mask to shut out extra light.
6. Ditch the joe late in the day
Curb caffeine intake in the afternoon, otherwise it can disrupt your nighttime slumber.
7. Take time to relax before bed
Create a wind-down routine. Try a soothing bath, pre-bed yoga, meditation, or curl up with a good book.
8. Try an app
Go high tech with a sleep cycle app for your smartphone that can gentle rouse you when you’re in between sleep cycles, making you feel better rested when you wake up.