There are few things more valuable in life than some well deserved shut-eye, but sleeping easy isn't always, well, easy. Stay-at-home-orders have disrupted some of the most important factors for sleep quality, such as routines, amounts of screen times, and levels of anxiety. In light of this Dr. Michael Grandner, Casper sleep advisor & director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona, has offered some expert advice for how to get a better night's sleep. Assuming you've got the best mattress and best pillow to let you settle down (and if you've not, you should definitely check out our guide,) these four steps should have you drifting off in no time.
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1. Disconnect and unwind
According to Dr. Grandner, "the most important thing you can do is to give yourself enough time to wind down and prepare for sleep."
That means cut the screen time, switch off the TV, and block out any distracting light and noise. All of these things can prevent you from getting into the right head-space to enjoy a proper night's sleep.
Oftentimes after a long day of working, or even just sitting in bed watching Netflix, we need to create a mental separation between the events of the day and your sleeping schedule. This is your time to relax and unwind, so switch into low gear and embrace it.
2. Distract your mind
Counting down the hours until you have to be up again? We've all been there, but fixating on your sleeplessness (or any issue or thought) is a surefire way to keep your brain active, and your body awake.
Dr. Grandner suggests "when your mind is stuck on a thought, sometimes the best thing you can do is engage in a simple distraction technique. Give yourself a simple set of problems to solve or work your way through some procedure you know -- like math problems or reciting the lyrics of a song in the correct order."
The classic example of counting sheep could apply here - switching your brain onto a different topic can block out unhelpful and stressful thoughts.
Tuning into your breathing can be a major help if you're having trouble sleeping. Not only can this activity distract your mind from stressful thoughts and help you to unwind and engage with your body. Mindful breathing exercises can help your body and mind to find calm at the end of the day.
Dr. Grandner highlights that "the key is to take deep, slow breaths in, hold it for a few seconds, and then exhale very slowly."
This is known as diaphragmatic breathing, which is simple and can be done in a few minutes as you lie in bed. "If your stomach expands as you breathe in and pushes in when you breathe out, you are breathing diaphragmatically."
4. Don’t linger in the morning
Getting into a good sleep routine takes more than just before-bed practices. If you're struggling to have a good night's sleep, it may be time to give your daily structure a shakeup. It makes sense really, but with many working from home or not facing a daily commute, it can be hard to get out of bed when you wake up.
Sure, we're all guilty of the odd lie-in, but Dr. Grandner suggests "one of the best things you can do during the day to fall asleep faster is get up in the morning. And when you get up, get light and movement as soon as you can. It helps set your circadian rhythm and prepares you to be able to get to sleep in about 16-18 hours."