In a perfect world, we would all get into bed at our ideal bed time and fit in a solid eight hours of sleep. However, life can easily get in the way of this perfect bed time, so it's important to know a few helpful tips that can help you get into bed earlier. Although we constantly neglect sleep in favor of finishing up work, seeing our friends, or watching Netflix, sleep plays an important role in our health, and it's time we start trying to prioritize it.
"Many sleep deprived people have lost their point of reference," says certified clinical sleep educator Terry Cralle, RN, MS, CPHQ over email. "They tend to have very little insight into how tired they are and how their performance, even mood, is negatively impacted. When some people finally see how it feels to be well-rested, they are quite motivated get to bed on time."
Getting into bed earlier requires the right habits from the minute you wake up until it's time to go to bed, so it's important to pay attention to your actions all throughout the day. If you want to get into bed sooner, try these 11 helpful tips that will have you going to bed earlier in no time.
1. Limit Your Naps To 20 Minutes
Napping is okay — as long as it doesn't last very long. "If your body is craving a nap, try to nap before 2 p.m. and set an alarm so that you do not sleep for longer than 20 minutes," says health psychologist Marni Amsellem, Ph.D. over email. "If you sleep for much longer than that, your body enters a deeper sleep phase (where you often wake disoriented) and it almost always affects your ability to fall asleep at the intended time at night."
2. Don't Drink Caffeine After 2 p.m.
"Limiting caffeine to not after 2 p.m. or reducing caffeine intake is a step that anyone having trouble falling asleep can experiment with," says Amsellem. Caffeine can not only make it harder for you to fall asleep, but it can also lead to poorer quality sleep once you drift off, according to a study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
3. Fit In Some Exercise
Exercise can do more than just get your body in shape — it can make it easier for you to fall asleep at night. A study from the journal Sleep Medicine found that the more consistent a workout regimen, the better it regulates your circadian rhythms. "If your schedule doesn’t allow an early morning workout, try to plan your day to allow for even a short period of exercise daily," says Brandon Berman, Reverie In-House Sleep Research Expert, over email.
4. Spend Time Outside
"By getting outside each day, your body will be exposed to natural daylight, helping to reinforce your sleep schedule," says Berman. "Sunlight helps to regulate the body’s internal clock and improve melatonin production (a hormone which helps control your sleep and wake cycles). Stepping outside during your lunch break, walking over to your nearest coffee shop instead of driving, or choosing to go for a run outside versus on the treadmill are just a few simple ways to ensure you receive a healthy dose of sunlight daily."
5. Avoid Sugar & Spices
It's important to pay attention to your diet, especially in the evening. "Stay away from spicy foods at night," says Berman. "They can cause indigestion and keep you awake. Sugary foods also give you an extra dose of unwanted energy. There is a strong link between healthy digestion and sleep, so choosing foods packed with vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium and calcium, will help support your body function more efficiently, promoting optimal sleep and health."
6. Turn Off The Electronics
It's time to shut down our computers, turn off our phones, and stay away from the television. "We all know too well just how stimulating and engaging these activities are and just how difficult it is to break away from them," says Cralle. "We also know how disruptive the light is that is emitted from these devices and how it leads to delayed sleep onset."
7. Set An Alarm For Bedtime
We set an alarm for waking up, so why not set one for going to sleep? "One strategy is to set an alarm clock for bedtime, ideally an hour before actual time to go to bed," says Cralle. "Note that bedtime should be at an hour that accommodates adequate sleep time. Don't have a bedtime at 11:30 p.m. if you have to be awake at 5 a.m."
8. Start Small
Trying to go to bed three hours earlier than usual isn't exactly a realistic goal. Instead, start small, and gradually increase the amount of sleep you get over time. "I challenge people who tend to be notoriously short on sleep to get an extra hour of sleep per night for one week and see how they feel," says Cralle.
9. Hold Yourself Accountable
We've all been there: You take off your makeup and get into bed, only to get a text from your friends inviting you out to dinner or a bar. Letting your friends know about your bedtime goals can help make sticking to them easier. "Because they know of your new habit that you're up to, it may prevent them from asking you to do late night extracurricular activities," says health coach Carrie Silver over email. "Without the temptation, it may be easier to get in bed by that new bedtime."
10. Leave Your Work At The Office
Answering emails or thinking of everything you have to do the next day only leads to more stress, and stress and sleep don't exactly get along. Stress can interfere with our ability to fall asleep, and that sleep deprivation only leads to more feelings of stress, according to the American Psychological Association. Avoid working close to bed time, and if your mind is racing, consider creating a quick to-do list to get out all your thoughts.
11. Find A Way To Unwind
"To make bedtime procrastination less likely, have a bedtime activity that you enjoy that does not involve electronics like coloring, yoga, reading, writing in a gratitude journal, etc.," says Cralle. "If it is a serene, relaxing, and enjoyable part of your night, you are less likely to put it off or delay it. The bedtime routine should be consistent and reproducible."
Getting into a routine can help encourage an earlier bed time — and the more you make it a habit, the easier it will be to get a good amount of sleep each night.
Images: Pixabay (12)