Sleep is weird. We do it practically every night, but we still don’t know much about how it works or why it happens. Even scientists are still studying the phenomenon of sleep and don’t know exactly what its purpose is. But what we do know is that sleep is one of, if not the most important part of your daily hygiene. Even more than the food you eat or the amount of exercise you get, sleep comes out as top priority.
But for some of us, good sleep is really hard to get. There can be several health issues to blame for that, such as my condition fibromyalgia (where my fight or flight response of my nervous system won’t chill out), or others like depression, insomnia, anxiety, etc. Or you may have none of those things, but sleep still illudes you. Regardless of where you are, there’s several sleeping habits I’ve found to help increase your chances of finally getting a good nights rest :D
Don’t do homework in your bed
I know, it’s comfy, but your brain will start to associate your bed with working rather than relaxing, and can make it hard to get into the sleeping mojo. Make sure you have a designated area (or areas) where you do your homework away from your bed, and anything you do on your bed is relaxing.
If able, have an uncluttered space to sleep
Yep I’m coming at you with a “clean your room” lecture. And I’m a very cluttered person myself! Though I’ve found a surprising amount of my sleep troubles came from have a very messy room, like it was subconsciously distracting my brain. Now cleaning your room is no easy feat, so feel free to ask your parents/siblings/friends to help you initially organize it, and take it one section at a time so it doesn’t overwhelm you.
Have a ‘wind down’ period 1-2 hours before bed
Before your body can even consider sleep, it needs to wind down first. Try to do relaxing things during this time, such as drawing, journaling, knitting, burritoeing yourself into a blanket, etc. Listening to calming music while you do these things can also help instill the ~zen~. I use Spotify’s “Sleep” playlist, but you can make/find your own that suits you.
No (unfiltered) screens 1-2 hours before bed
This one is hard, but it’s super important. Computer/tablet/phone screens mimic sunlight and will make your body think it’s day and activate your brain rather than calm it down. It’s known as bluelight. Thankfully, iPhone 6 and newer have a built in ‘nightshift’ mode you can turn on in your settings to filter out that bluelight, as well as on some updated Mac computers. Otherwise, there’s usually filter apps for other brand devices you can download, or you can get bluelight filtered glasses to wear.
Regardless if it’s filtered, I still advise you either make sure you’re doing something relaxing on your device, or find an activity that doesn’t require screens. I find watching calming youtube videos, digital drawing, or writing my best options.
Dim the lights
Bright overhead lights can also stimulate your brain, so it’s best to go a space with dim lighting while you wind down.
Eat Certain Foods and Avoid Others Before Bed
Bedtime snacks aren’t all a bad thing! In fact, some can help you sleep better if you eat the right foods. Here’s a chart of which foods are beneficial to your sleep, and which are detrimental:
It’s recommended to eat these 2-3 hours before bed to prevent digestive issues like acid reflux, and don’t eat too much.
Also, don’t drink caffeinated drinks like coffee and certain sodas at within 6-9 hours of your bedtime, as caffeine will stay in your system a good while and definitely mess up your sleep.
Keep your room cool
Being too warm can be a common reason people wake up in the middle of the night. It’s recommended to keep your room temperature around 62-67ºF (17-19ºC) degrees if possible. This doesn’t mean you can’t bundle up under the covers! Just need your bedroom temperature to be cool enough.
Yoga/Progressive muscle relaxation
Sometimes your body needs some extra relaxation to really calm down. And no don’t worry, I’m not talking about those yoga poses where you need to contort your body into a human pretzel.
I’m talking about stretching parts of your body and pairing it with your breath, which is the main gist of yoga. I use Yoga With Adriene’s videos for all my yoga needs and do it in my bed (if you look her up, be warned she sometimes uses mild swears), but you/your parent/guardian can do some googling around to find a session that works for you. There’s also progressive muscle relaxation, where you tense up parts of your body as you inhale, and then exhale as you release them. It’s recommended to do this along with an audio guide (I’ve found mine on Youtube).
What if I wake up and can’t go back to sleep?
Similar to doing homework in your bed, staying in your bed too long while trying but failing to sleep can also make your brain associate your bed with frustration. So when you get restless, get up and do something else for a bit. I personally make myself some non-caffeinated tea, such as chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm, or sleepy time tea. You can do some drawing, journaling, yoga, etc while you wait to wind down, but just be sure to stay off unfiltered screens. Once you start feeling a bit tired, head back to bed and try to sleep again.
Rest is NOT something you “earn” once you do enough.
This is a lie that has plagued my life and was only until I got my illness that I learned how bad this was. If you didn’t get all your work done and it’s already bedtime, you’re not ‘undeserving’ of rest. Rest is not a prize. Your body NEEDS rest and sleep to function, just like eating and drinking water. A couple of late-nighters or even all-nighters won’t kill you, but frequent ones will really take a toll on your body. I’m a living example of what happens when you don’t take care of yourself. I now have a complex and debilitating chronic illness that has no cure, so not getting enough sleep is no joke to me anymore. If despite prioritizing and planning out your work you find you still have too much to do and simply can’t get enough sleep while staying on top of things, please talk to your parents/school counselor about cutting back on something. Whether that means dropping a class or coordinating with your teachers to have less work, remember your health is a priority. Going for an honors diploma but with the cost of being sick for the rest of your life isn’t worth it.
Getting your sleep regime together can be daunting, so it’s ok to take these tips one at a time! Start with one and add on another when you get the first down. If, despite trying these habits, you’re still not getting good sleep, please talk with your parents/doctor about treatment options/getting a sleep study. Your health is worth advocating for.