Most of us are familiar with the importance of sleep. Those eight hours are vital for your body’s rejuvenation.
When we don’t sleep well, we lose cognitive sharpness the next day, mornings are miserable, and we aren’t that productive. (In fact, you’re no more functional when sleep-deprived than you are when legally drunk¹.)
But getting a good night’s sleep can be trickier than just going to bed early. Sometimes sleep just doesn’t come. You find yourself tossing and turning with a million worries swirling around in your head.
In this guide, we’re going to go over some of the most straightforward tips to help you find the genuinely relaxing, restful sleep you’ve been seeking.
It all comes down to the end of your day, the last 8 minutes are more powerful that most realize. If you can spend the last 8 minutes of your day productively preparing yourself for sleep, you’ll see a vast difference in the quality of your rest.
It doesn’t take a massive shift in your daily routine to have a significant impact on your sleep at night. Here are a few simple ways to find better sleep in less than 10 minutes.
Many people like to read before bed, and this can be a great way to unwind. Choose things that make you happy or content. This means avoid reading the news or anything else that’s heavy or upsetting. Don’t read work reports or other important documents, either.
A favorite television show before bed may also do the trick (although you would be breaking our 8-minute promise).
Many experts warn against reading or watching television while in bed. Instead, they encourage you to reserve your bed only for sleep and sex, so your brain doesn’t make other associations. If you’re taking this additional advice, try to do your nighttime reading while curled up on the couch or in a chair.
Meditation is a great way to force your brain to slow down. The low level of brain activity brought about by meditation perfectly mimics the natural state of mind right before full sleep kicks in. This means meditation can be a natural sleep aid for those who are willing to try.
According to Harvard Health, mindfulness meditation improves sleep in adults². Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on breathing and letting go of everything except the present. You may find that guided meditations are helpful, at least when you first get started. There are many free and paid apps that can lead you through different mindfulness meditations³.
Meditation doesn’t have to be lengthy to be effective. In as little as five minutes, you can get the full benefits of meditation.
Sleep will come more accessible to you if you are in a positive headspace. One of the easiest ways to do this is to express gratitude, mostly by hand. If you keep a gratitude journal, the last few minutes before bed are the perfect time to write in it. If you don’t own a gratitude journal, consider writing a short, grateful note by hand.
The gratitude can be whatever you want it to be. If you want to express gratitude towards someone kind to you, then do so. You don’t have ever to let them see the note if you don’t want to. You can also choose to express gratitude for general health, happiness, or even something as simple as the beauty of each morning’s sunrise. It’s about your gratitude, so don’t worry about what others think you should value.
A hot bath before bed is a great way to unwind, but after the bath is over, be sure to give your body some time to cool down. Most sleep authorities recommend a bedroom temperature of no more than 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep⁴. Turn your thermostats down before you go to bed and give your room time to adjust before you curl up under the comforter.
Never start anything stressful or difficult right before bed. Difficult conversations or home projects can all wait until daylight. For many us workaholics out there, it can be tempting to try and be as productive as possible right up until we’re crawling under the covers. Resist the urge to “accomplish” anything right before bed.
Remember that by giving yourself these 8 minutes to relax and unwind, you make your next morning’s work much more successful. Life is a give and take. You have to give your mind and body some care if you want to reach your full potential.
(1) Williamson, AM; Feyer, AM (2000) Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication
(2) Corliss, J (February 2015) Mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia, improves sleep
(3) Scott, SJ (December 2017) 15 Best Meditation and Mindfulness Apps for 2020
(4) National Sleep Foundation (November 2014) The Ideal Temperature for Sleep