If you’re like most people, you may not get enough sleep sometimes. Restful sleep helps keep your mind and body healthy. When you struggle to get enough rest, you may find yourself groggy and irritable. Lack of sleep can even raise your risk of serious health conditions. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reports that the average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Learn how to reach that goal in today’s busy world.
Step 1: Relax Before Bed
Going to sleep is like any other task — for some, it takes planning and preparation. Try to:
- Have a hot shower or bath before bed. The combination of muscle-soothing warm water and cool air hitting your body create perfect sleeping conditions.
- Stop eating 2 hours before bed. If you’re really hungry, have a high protein snack such as a turkey slice or scoop of yogurt, which may boost your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a “feel-good” hormone that promotes relaxation.
- Don’t set yourself up to fail by drinking coffee or soda before bed. Instead, have some caffeine-free herbal tea or warm milk. It’s best to avoid drinking any liquids an hour before bed. Drinking water too closely to bedtime may lead to more bathroom breaks throughout the night.
- Stop watching TV and using your phone or laptop before you go into your bedroom. Your bedroom should be a place that your body associates with sleeping, not entertainment or work. If you need to unwind, you might read, do deep breathing exercises, or listen to calming music.
Step 2: Develop a Strategic Sleep Routine
Create a simple and dependable sleep routine that works for you. Following best practices for sleep will make sure that sleeping becomes habit-forming and this will increase your chances of meeting sleeping goals. For example:
- Be consistent with the time you go to bed and the time you wake up. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that adults should set their alarms to go off at the same time every morning — even on weekends.
- Have a specific, to the minute, sleep goal. For example, “I will go to sleep at 11:30 pm and wake up at 7:00 am.”
- The moment you hear your alarm go off, wake up. Do not press snooze over and over again. Waking up and then falling back asleep disrupts the body’s internal clock.
Step 3: Remove Road Blocks to Sleeping
- Invest in a pillow that provides neck and head support and a mattress that works for your body. Don’t stack pillows, as this can cause neck pain and breathing issues.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach. This position is hard on your back and neck and can wake you up in the middle of the night.
- Reduce light exposure and noise by turning off TVs, radios, computers, and phones. You can also wear a sleeping mask or cap.
- Turn on a fan or white-noise machine to help block sounds of traffic, birds, and sirens.
Step 4: Track It
There are a variety of ways to track your sleep that can help you meet your sleeping goals. Some of these options include:
- Sleep contracts that hold you accountable for your chosen sleep routine. For example, you can make promises like, “I’ll use my bedroom for sleep only,” and “I will not look at my phone or computer one hour before bed.”
- Tracker apps for your smartphone can help you set bedtime and wake-up targets and track your progress. Tracker bracelets and other wearable monitors can store useful data about your sleep cycles.
- Try keeping a sleep journal. The National Sleep Institute offers a free template for you to get started.
Now You Know How to Set and Track a Sleep Goal
Sleep is the time for your body to recharge. And now you have all the tools and knowledge you need to start getting a better night’s rest. Sweet dreams!