Remember when you were younger and you had a parent-enforced bedtime? I bet you used to fight for “just five more minutes” every time mom or dad told you it was time for lights out.
Now you’re lucky if you fall asleep at a decent hour, and every morning you beg your alarm clock for just five more minutes of sleep…. Like five or six times in a row.
You know you need more sleep because you can feel the effects of your restless nights throughout the day; it’s hard to wake up when your alarm goes off, you feel like you can’t start your day without a boost from caffeine and by 3 p.m. your brain feels like someone hit the off switch and the rest of your body feels sluggish and drained.
Aside from helping you feel well rested, sleep plays a significant role in your overall health and wellness. Missing out on quality shuteye is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and impaired immunity.
What’s more, when it comes to fitness goals involving weight loss or performance gains, sleep is an important aspect that’s often overlooked. Sleep can affect everything from your motivation to workout to your appetite.
According to Rebecca Q. Scott, PhD, a sleep specialist at the New York Sleep Institute and an Assistant Research Professor in the NYU School of Medicine, a lack of sleep can lead to decreased energy levels and hormone imbalances, which can cause the stomach to send hunger signals to the brain even when you’re not actually hungry.
And for athletes and exercisers who work out intensely on a regular basis, the recovery process that occurs while we rest at night is an imperative part of improving performance.
“Good sleep improves stamina—both mental and physical—stabilizes hormones, improves endurance and speed, and also aids in muscle memory,” says Scott.
The bottom line: anyone on a mission to live a healthy lifestyle must establish healthy sleep habits. Of course, we all know that’s much easier said than done. So, to help you break up with your snooze button and get your bedtime back on track we’ve compiled this list of expert tips that will help you fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.
Establish a Before Bed Routine
Scott recommends performing a relaxing ritual, like preparing your outfit for the next day, brushing your teeth and reading a book every night just before you’re ready for bed. This will help let your mind know that it’s almost time for sleep. Many experts also recommend that you never try to force sleep. If you can’t seem to fall asleep, try something like reading a book or writing in a journal until you feel sleepy instead of pressuring your mind to turn off.
Turn Off the Tech
Scott recommends that you dim your lights and avoid electronics like smartphones, tablets and laptops about an hour or so before bed. Research suggests that light exposure at night may suppress the body’s ability to produce melatonin, a hormone that regulates our wake and sleep cycles.