Going to sleep at night can be easier said than done. Whether you’re up late reflecting on the past or thinking about the future, our minds may need additional prompting in order to slow down before bed. From our emotional well-being, to our safety, to supporting our circadian rhythm, maintaining healthy sleep habits and routines positively impacts several aspects of our health.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute outlines how sleep deficiency occurs if you have one or more of the following experiences:
- You don’t get enough sleep (sleep deprivation)
- You sleep at the wrong time of day (that is, you’re out of sync with your body’s natural clock)
- You don’t sleep well or get all of the different types of sleep that your body needs
- You have a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting enough sleep or causes poor quality sleep
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute discusses how sleep deficiency can make you “have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night for optimal health.
Here are a few ideas on how to unwind before going to sleep:
Read a hardcover book or magazine. Scrolling through social media accounts, watching online videos or reading articles from a phone or laptop does not help our minds relax and get ready for sleep. Many sleep experts even recommend removing all digital devices from your bedroom or sleeping area. Although we live in a world of constant digital connectivity, swapping your phone for a book will help you relax and sleep more peacefully through the night.
Write down your thoughts. Instead of ruminating about an experience, take time to journal about your thoughts and experiences to help contextualize them before you go to sleep. For tips on how to get started journaling, check out this article.
Practice physical self-care. Exercise, stretch and/or take a bath to relax your muscles before going to sleep. Consistent exercise and movement throughout the day will also help you sleep better.
Do some light cleaning. Whether it’s your room, apartment, barracks or living space, take time before you go to bed to fold laundry, wipe down your counters or straighten up your papers. Focusing on small tasks each night will help you settle down with a sense of accomplishment and lead to a more relaxing wake up.
Meditate in a way that works for you. Several mobile applications now focus on guiding individuals through breathing and meditation activities. If you have already found a successful way to meditate, consider expanding your sensory experience by using a white noise machine or listening to nature sounds.
Prep for the next day. If you are feeling anxious about what the next day may bring, consider ways for how you can feel more empowered to take on new challenges and opportunities. Consider creating a to-do or goals list for the next day, checking the weather or packing your lunch.
For more ideas on how to get a better night of sleep, review the following items:
- Sleep Resources, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center
- Relax Relax Toolkit, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center
- 10 Effective Sleep Habits, Human Performance Resources by Consortium for Health and Military Performance
- Sleep Matters, Real Warriors Campaign
- How to Develop Healthy Sleep Habits, Real Warriors Campaign
- For a Better Snooze – Lose the Booze, Own Your Limits
- Get Better Sleep, Wounded Warrior Project