Several short years ago, sleeping was not one of my greatest strengths. When I was a teenager, I would lie down to sleep and thoughts would just keep coming into my head. And when those didn’t keep me up for hours, I had to pee. And when I didn’t have to pee, I was too hot or too cold or the position I was in just never seemed right. The list of disruptions goes on and on. Paired with difficulty falling asleep, I also had to wake up around 6:30AM to get ready for school. All those years, I didn’t think that I needed to improve my sleep hygiene. I thought that I was functioning pretty well. I was getting good grades in school and keeping up with my extracurriculars. However, when I started college, I realized that I had a problem.
In college, I finally had the epiphany I needed. Sleep is so important. Sleep is just as important, if not more important, than staying hydrated, eating well, and staying active. My first year of college was full of the typical things: pulling all-nighters to study, watching American Horror Story late at night and eating too much pizza, practicing until midnight (I was a music major) and going out to eat later. Fast-forward to when I finally turned 21. I could barely stand the thought of staying out at the bars until 3AM and waking up the next day with the world’s worst hangover. Sleep was too important to me, and I knew it was something that I absolutely needed to function properly as a human being.
We all have things that we cannot compromise. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that sleep is one of those non-negotiable things I need for my mental and physical health. My sleep improved with time and slow integration of healthy habits. Here are 6 ways that you can improve your quality of sleep naturally and easily.
1. Create a Ritual
Having a routine is helpful for when you go to sleep and when you wake up. Most people have a morning ritual that usually involves checking their phone, maybe deleting some emails, maybe journalling, brushing their teeth, having coffee or tea, and getting ready for work or school. The purpose of this morning “groove” is to start the day peacefully and set a positive and productive tone for the hours ahead. You can do the same thing at night to prep yourself for restful and easy sleep.
Personally, I struggle with not using technology during my bedtime ritual. I often find myself binging on YouTube videos or scrolling through Instagram for hours before I decide that I’m feeling sleepy. Stimulation from technology is definitely not something that will help you and me sleep well. It’s healthier to put the phone away and spend an hour reading, journaling, knitting, or doing something else unrelated to the stress of tech before bed. I know, being away from your phone can be stressful at first! It’s a process, and you just have to tell yourself that everything will still be there tomorrow and that there’s no need to have any FOMO! To be honest, I need to tell myself this wayy more often.
2. Limit Blue Light
This goes hand in hand with what I was just talking about! Blue light that is emitted from screens can damage the eye and cause headaches. This artificial light also increases brain activity, which is not beneficial for sleep. Let’s be real, some nights you just wanna watch your favorite show or a new episode of The Bachelorette before bed. Something that can be helpful is to wear blue-blockers, or glasses that block blue light. You can find these at Warby Parker and other common retailers. If you don’t want to buy a pricy pair of glasses, a helpful tool is the Night Shift feature on your iPhone. This makes the colors of your display warmer and easier on the eyes. You may also experiment with moving all of your technology out of your bedroom to keep the temptation of checking those notifications farrrr away.
I used to think that journalling was “lame” and that it was like keeping a diary. Now that I’m a bit older, I see (and reap!) the benefits of it. When I can’t fall asleep, it’s usually because I still have thoughts from the day scurrying around in my head. One of the best ways to release these thoughts is through journalling. Before I go to sleep, I reflect in my planner on my celebrations and challenges of the day, what I’m grateful for, and what I hope tomorrow will bring.
So maybe try keeping a journal next to your bed and set aside 10 minutes or so to write before you shut ‘er down. It’s important to actually write down your thoughts with pen and paper because it requires more brain power and processing than typing! Try to keep your journal positive instead of scribbling down rants. I get it, it’s totally necessary sometimes! But the goal of journalling is to put you in a more content and positive headspace before bed. So if you’re writing down some anxieties you have, try to sketch out some ways you could solve the problem or other ways things could unfold. You’ll definitely fall asleep easier and wake up feeling refreshed!
4. Make Your Bedroom a Haven
Having a space that you actually want to be in is so beneficial when it comes to sleep. I personally find it hard to relax in a room that is a complete disaster, which might come as a surprise to people who actually know me. Y’all know how messy I can be! But seriously, I am more comfortable and willing to sleep in a room that is clean and orderly. It helps to put my mind at ease.
There are many ways you can turn your room into a shut-eye sanctuary. One of my tips is to not do any work in your bedroom. Save that for the office! You may also want to try keeping technology out of your room all together- like I said before. Other things that can help are getting some air-purifying house plants, black-out curtains (if you need total darkness), and maybe an essential oil diffuser or lavender pillow spray. Anything that can make your bedroom a welcoming and calm space is a must!
5. Exercise After School or Work
I know, I know. Most people prefer a morning work out! I also like to work out in the morning because it makes me feel super productive and like a grown-ass woman. But being in school, sometimes I don’t have time in the morning! So I accidentally stumbled upon how exercising around 5:30 or 6:30 in the evening really helps me sleep! I have a few theories on how this works. The first one is that the exercise tires me out. Like I’m already exhausted from work and then double exhausted from working out! But those exercise endorphins give me a little boost to make it through the rest of the night. Also, taking a shower at night after I exercise really helps me relax. Exercising late also makes me feel like I had a very long but good day, which makes me excited about the next one!
Everyone has different sleep preferences. For example, I like to sleep with curtains that let in natural light. Sometimes I even like to leave a nightlight on. I’m completely opposite of my sister. She can only sleep well in total darkness. I also need a bit of white noise to sleep, but I’ve known lots of people that can only sleep in silence. All in all, you have to experiment and find out what things help you the most.
Not getting enough sleep can really put a damper on the rest of your day and take a huge toll on your physical and mental health. Sometimes when I follow all of my own tips, I still can’t sleep. But that’s just how it is. Everyone’s sleep patterns change from time to time! But I know what I have to do to set myself up for a restful night, and I hope it is helpful to you! Sometimes with school or work, sleeping well gets put on the back-burner, just like how it can be for diet and exercise. It’s ok to not have perfect sleep all the time! But when I do, I feel that I have more energy, clarity, and a greater ability to problem-solve and think rationally. I also have more creativity and inspiration when I’m sleeping well too! Because of all of these benefits, I personally prioritize sleep for myself. It’s something that makes me feel really good.
I hope that some of these tips give you inspiration and new places to start working on to improve your sleep! Let me know if you have any other sleep must-haves below! Thanks for reading as always, xo.