I’ve had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep for as long as I can remember. Part of the reason is that I don’t need as much sleep as the average person: if I’m healthy and well-rested, my internal alarm goes off after seven and a half hours and I simply can’t sleep any longer. But since elementary school, I’ve consistently struggled with being able to turn off my brain and unwind when it comes time for bed–basically, reaching the state of mind you need to be in, in order to sleep well.
When I graduated from college, I decided it was time to finally start dealing with the problem. Over the past few months, I’ve experimented with many different relaxation tools and practices to develop the perfect quick and easy nighttime routine for the ultimate good night’s sleep. What I’m sharing with you today is the result of those experiments: it’s the routine I follow nearly every day that puts me out like a baby after years of fighting for my seven and a half hours.
While I’m not a doctor and definitely don’t claim to be a sleep specialist, making these changes has improved my sleep pattern beyond what I could have hoped for. And if you have any suggestions to add, I’d love to hear them. Comment below with your tips! But enough chatting–let’s get onto the routine!
- Put away screens at least one hour before bed. Although I do have a blue light filter installed on my computer, I’ve found it’s helpful to disconnect from the fast-paced world of the Internet with ample time to spare before bed. Give yourself time to disconnect from your work, blog, or other online community and let your mind return to its natural slower pace. (You’ll note that I do use my computer and phone later in the evening to do yoga and listen to a guided meditation, however, anything else is a no-go!)
- Eat a light snack and take a magnesium supplement. I currently take a magnesium supplement before bed each night to reduce muscle tension. Lack of magnesium causes muscle tension, cramps, and spasms (among other symptoms), and I’ve definitely noticed that it’s easier to physically relax when I take my supplement regularly. As it’s recommended to take the pill with food—and as I usually get hungry around that time anyways—I’ll pair it with a banana and peanut butter, rice crackers and hummus, or another light snack to stop my stomach from grumbling later that night.
- Do a gentle yoga routine. Especially if I’ve spent the last few hours sitting around and working on my computer, it’s nice to get a little movement in before bed (but not the kind that gets my heart pounding!). Trying to fall asleep while you’re stiff and sore makes for a restless sleep. Lately I’ve been loving this five-minute bedtime yoga routine when I’m short on time, but in general I try to aim for 20-ish minutes of stretching and focusing on slowing down my breathing.
- Cover my windows with “blackout curtains.” Exposure to bright and blue light in the evenings disturbs your circadian rhythm and makes it harder to fall asleep. I’ve always lived in the suburbs with bright streetlights right outside my house, and I can’t tell you how much covering my windows at night has improved my sleep quality! I currently don’t use real blackout curtains, just an old set of navy flannel sheets, but they get the job done.
- Use a guided meditation app to fall asleep. I used to think that meditation was a complete waste of time—until I found the Calm app. Now I can’t go a night without it! Calm has a few different subscription options, but I’ve found that the free guided meditations and sleep stories are enough for me. I’ve been loving “The Waterfall” sleep story lately. Once I hit play, I can’t keep my eyes open for more than five minutes! If you haven’t tried the Calm app and have trouble falling asleep, I highly, highly recommend it.
Remember to comment and share your tips for a better night’s sleep, too! What works for you might just help someone else!