Here’s How To Improve Your Sleep Routine Without Counting A Single Sheep

"Я уверен: нельзя позволять, чтобы тебя остановило убогое словцо «нельзя»." Ричард Брэнсон ZMEY
Время на прочтение: 5 минут(ы)

No sleeping cap necessary.

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One in three adults struggle to get enough sleep, according to findings from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC considers sleep deprivation to be a public health epidemic, where about 70 million adults have a sleep disorder.

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A lack of sleep is associated with poor attention and thinking, can trigger manic episodes among people with bipolar disorder, and can even affect your guts (to say nothing of the bags under your eyes and your usually sunny disposition). While experts recommend a range of sleep durations based on age, it’s safe to say that most adults struggle to get that elusive eight hours. Psychologist and sleep expert Dr. Janet Kennedy says that most patients who visit her practice complain of racing thoughts keeping them up at night.

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“We are stimulated during the day and through the evening up until bedtime…. We’re missing the kind of downshifting that we need to properly allow the brain to do its job during nighttime,” Dr. Kennedy says. “We have this constant swirl of activity, which the brain can handle but it can’t go from 100 mph to 0 in the blink of an eye.”

There are many things you can do to build a better sleep routine, and Dr. Kennedy has a few suggestions …


Begin Your Sleep Routine When You Wake Up

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While conventional wisdom would have us going to bed at the same time every night, Dr. Kennedy says this isn’t quite the case. “You really need to get up at the same time every day and then listen to your body and go to bed when you need to.”

If you wake up at 7 a.m. during the week but rise at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, you likely won’t make your regular weeknight bedtime. “You have to be up long enough to be sleepy, so I see a lot of people with Sunday night insomnia,” she says, suggesting that those who find themselves groggy on Monday morning attempt to wake up close to their “early time” over the weekend.


Move Around More During the Day

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Your physical and mental health can have a huge impact on your sleep quality, so Dr. Kennedy recommends exercising and limiting caffeine intake to earlier in the day. “Making sure that you’re getting some time away from the desk, preferably with some natural light and fresh air and movement,” is also important.


Journal A Daily To-Do List

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Kennedy suggests that making a kind of “work journal” with a to-do list not only helps put a pin at the end of the day but offers a moment for reflection. “Journaling allows you to preempt some of that mind-racing that happens before you go to bed,” she says. “Setting that up as a way to close the book on the day gives yourself a chance to move forward, even if you still have to do some work at home.”


Don’t Double Up On Digital Devices

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Although it’s almost become cliché to say, technology has affected the way we sleep. “At a minimum, an hour before bed, the phone should be [away] in the charger,” Kennedy says, adding that she prefers to have her phone out of the bedroom. She also urges people to watch how they multi-task while relaxing – meaning, try not to be scrolling through Instagram while you watch TV at night.

“It used to be that TV got boring in the middle of the night and there wasn’t anything to watch. There are all kinds of things that used to be in place to kind of get us bored enough to unwind, but that’s not the case anymore and this becomes an issue of moderation, an issue of discipline,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be super strict or depriving, but we have to draw the boundaries ourselves; these things don’t make their own rules.”


Create Quality Bedtime Habits

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Bedtime routines aren’t just for kids anymore – having a set of tasks or rituals before bed can actually signal to your body that sleep is nigh. Your routine shouldn’t be too elaborate, Dr. Kennedy notes. “If it’s extremely time consuming or difficult, or you need 10 different items that you can’t take with you when you travel, you can’t do it and then you’ll feel anxiety.”

In addition to staying off your phone before bed, Dr. Kennedy suggests not lounging in pajamas all night; changing into your cozies is another physical signal to your body. Aromatherapy, listening to quiet music, stretching or yoga, and taking a bath or shower half an hour before bed are all solid ways to improve your ability to go to sleep easily and stay asleep.


Reserve Your Bed For Sleep, Sex, and Reading

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“If you stop trying to sleep, sleep will find you more easily. But when you chase sleep, it tends to run away. So occupying your mind and letting your body tell you what it needs is best,” Kennedy says. “The more you can reserve the bed for sleep and sex, the more salient of a cue it’s going to be for you to relax.”

Reading also allows the mind to slip away from daytime stress and settle into natural fatigue. “I find that reading fiction in bed gives the mind a place to go that is compelling enough to take it outside of your day, but not necessarily so compelling that you’re having an adrenaline response.” (That sure sounds like a job for James Patterson).


Limit “Sleep Technology” In The Bedroom

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“I resist the technologizing of sleep because getting back to your physical nature is the point, not monitoring it with trackers or feeling like you need a certain sound pattern to stimulate your sleep pattern,” Dr. Kennedy says.

Listening to podcasts, sleep apps, and 10-hour YouTube videos of hotel air conditioners (it’s a thing) can be helpful, though Kennedy is hesitant to bring too much technology back into the bedroom. With a podcast, “your brain is still attending to it even while you’re sleeping, so unless there’s a timer on, it can affect the depth and quality of your sleep.”

But there is some general sleep technology that has a place in creating better sleep, like the Dohm DS sound conditioner ($39.39) – an old-school sound machine often used by therapists around their offices. “Digital white noise can be kind of grating and you often have to make it louder to buffer the intruding sound, whereas analog creates more of a screen that fills the room.”


Try A Weighted Blanket

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Weighted blankets can also be helpful for people who have anxiety or feel restless in bed but there are some caveats before you run out and spend (often a lot of money) on one. Weighted blankets are not magic nor will they allow you to skip any of the tips and techniques we’ve listed above. Establishing the sleep routine first is key. If that fails, a trip to the doctor is in order and then it might be time to give that gravity blanket a go.