We all know the importance of a good night’s sleep (and don’t forget, lack of sleep can cause headaches, among other health issues). So why, then, is it so difficult to hit the sack? Blame all the usual distractions: the ever-growing to-do list, modern technology (we’re talking about you, smartphone!), longer workdays and late dinners.
The good news: Practice a few of the following expert tips on how to actually go to bed, on-time (no cheating!) and fall asleep fast, and you could gain back the sleep you’ve been missing.
“Be realistic about what you can accomplish in the evening and edit your to-do list,” says Janet Kennedy, Ph.D. “Work backwards from your bedtime and allot time for your routine and any other necessities. Then ask yourself if you really have time to do the 10 other things you had in mind. Multitasking can be over-stimulating, especially when it involves screens. Focus instead on one or two priorities.”
Put Away Your To-Do List
Once you’ve tackled tonight’s to-dos, you might start obsessing over tomorrow’s. Resist! “Spend five minutes writing down all the things you want or need to accomplish tomorrow,” says Lindsay Livingston, R.D., author of the Lean Green Bean blog. “That way, you won’t have to worry about remembering them while you’re trying to fall asleep. You can turn off your brain, rest up and then tackle your to-do list in the morning.”
Do Something Relaxing
Dr. James B. Maas, author of Sleep For Success! suggests taking a hot shower, warm bath or, if you have one, a Jacuzzi soak just before bed. These rituals may help you unwind.
“A few grounding yoga poses can be a great way to take energy down,” says Denver-based yoga instructor Nicole Hagg. She suggests simple yoga poses, like her personal favorite, Legs Up the Wall.
Make a Deadline
“Set an alarm for one hour before you wish to be in bed,” says Kim West, LCSW-C, aka “The Sleep Lady.” “Change into your pajamas, begin to dim the lights — including turning off electronics.” Then? Putter. “Listen to music, light reading, a hobby — nothing upsetting, emotional or intense. This hour will force you to stop working, and allow you to begin to wind down and become more relaxed and ready to go to bed.”
Now Make It a Habit
Says Edward Hallowell, M.D., and author of Driven To Distraction At Work: “The more you go to bed at a certain time each night, the more likely you will go to bed at that time the next night.” Make your bedroom special in order to make the habit stick. “Buy some new pillows, a plush comforter or fleece, and a fragrant sachet to put under your pillow,” he suggests.