If the answer to, “What is the one thing to make everything else easier or unnecessary?” is “A good night’s sleep,” then the obvious next question is:
How do I get a good night’s sleep?
The answer to that is, sadly, I don’t. I don’t get a good night’s sleep. The best I can do is get a better night’s sleep, and though I can’t answer the question of a good night’s sleep, I can answer the question of a better night’s sleep.
Here are five simple changes I’ve implemented to improve my sleep.
- Sleep schedule
A consistent sleep schedule is critical for better sleep. Block out enough time to get the sleep you require, and stick to it. I need 7-1/2 to 8 hours of sleep, so I’m in bed at 9:45 pm, to get up at 6:15 am, and I stick to this. The first few weeks were hard, but now it’s habitual, and my sleep is noticeably better.
Not just what you eat, but when you eat it. First, there is evidence that a high protein diet will help improve your sleep. Second, as with everything in life, timing is everything, i.e., don’t eat right before bed, it can mess with your sleep. Personally, I eat my dinner before 7 pm, and have given up all evening snacks, giving me three hours to digest before going to bed.
As with your diet, the when is as important as the what. I love coffee, and I won’t be giving it up, but I also need to get better sleep. Consuming stimulants such as caffeine, ruins my sleep. In the linked study they say six hours before bed, but I limit my caffeine intake (from any source) to before noon.
- Sleep, and only sleep, in your bed
Bed is for sleeping, and Mommy/Daddy stuff, but that’s the subject of another post.
This post is about sleep, and if you want to improve your sleep, lose the screens. Reading in bed is generally fine, but only off of paper because the blue light from tablets and phones makes it take longer to get to sleep, and reduces sleep quality. When bed time arrives, my iPhone goes on the charger, and I go to bed.
- Stop napping
I know, it’s a long day, you’re tired and a little power nap will help you “power through.” Short naps can be beneficial, but irregular or long naps can also mess with your nighttime sleep. Given that I like simple, and given that dozing off for even 30 seconds can ruin my night’s sleep, I have given up napping altogether. When I get dozy in the afternoon, I get up and move until the feeling passes.
There are many benefits to a good night’s sleep. Lower stress, weight control, reduced inflammation, better cognitive function, to name a few, and I have felt many of them, but they’re not the ones I focus on.
My depression almost got me. Almost killed me. So, controlling it, learning to live with it, is the great challenge of my life, and one of the most powerful tools I have found in controlling my depression, is improving my sleep.