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How to Get Good Sleep
If you’ve ever felt the deliciousness of slipping back into your sleep groove after suffering from not getting enough, then you understand sleep is one of nature’s secret success weapons. It acts like jet fuel for our productivity and a magic tonic for how we feel on a cellular, physical, mental and emotional level.
You can learn more about the importance of sleep and how it benefits us in Part 1: The Importance of Sleep.
This article is about HOW to get the quality sleep you need to live life to the fullest and smash each goal you set yourself. We’ll also share how you can help set this up for your teens and younger school-aged kids too. But first, how much is enough?
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
While many of us like to think we can get by on snatching whatever sleep hours life throws at us if you want to function optimally, most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep.
While everyone is different and you might feel you can get by on less, averaging only 6-7 hours of sleep a night is a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation.
Teens (14-17 years old): need more sleep to be doing their best, with 8-10 hours being optimal for this age group.
Children (6-13 years old): needing even more sleep, with 9-11 hours being optimal for them, and children under this age requiring more again.
For more on the Importance of Sleep and how it benefits us, please refer back to Part 1.
How To Get Good Sleep
Here are the 10 top ways you can get the quality sleep you need, starting tonight:
1)Work out your “lights out time”
To ensure you’re getting the sleep your body needs to wake itself up at the time you have to get up. So if you want 8 hours of sleep, ask yourself what time you need to get up, then count back 8 hours to find the time you need to get into bed with lights out.
Ideally you want this to be before 10:00 PM as science shows us we get our best sleep between 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM, and keep getting in to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day – including weekends – to keep our circadian clock working at its best.
2)Get plenty of sunlight during the day
Our body has a natural time-keeping clock known as our circadian rhythm. It affects our brain, body, and hormones, helping us stay awake and telling us when it's time to sleep.
To keep your circadian rhythm healthy, improve your daytime energy, and the quality and length of your time asleep, aim for as much daily sunlight exposure as you can. Or, if this isn't practical, invest in an artificial bright-light device or bulbs.
3)Eat right for a good night’s sleep
Skip spicy or heavy foods at dinnertime, as they can keep you awake with heartburn or indigestion – save them for lunch instead.
If feeling hungry prevents you from falling asleep or staying asleep, a little food in your stomach may help – reach for a small banana, handful of nuts and seeds, or halve a Juice Plus+ Fruit or Chocolate Bar.
4) Implement a caffeine curfew and Say no to a nightcap
Caffeine stays in your system for nearly 6 hours, and alcohol disrupts the pattern of sleep and brainwaves that help you feel refreshed in the morning.
5)Experiment with what type and how much exercise works for you
Getting enough of the right type can help you fall asleep quicker at night and put you into a deeper sleep.
Think strength-training (i.e. using weights or doing weight-bearing exercises) during the day, as this type of exercise nicely tires out the body, helping you fall more quickly into a deeper sleep.
While yoga’s relaxing poses and stretches, and the calming breathing exercises that accompany them may be especially helpful if stress is what’s keeping you from falling asleep at night.
6)Shut off all screens and devices at least one hour before bed AND keep them out of the bedroom
Blue light (emitted in big amounts from things like smartphones and computers) impacts poorly on our circadian rhythm, tricking our brain into thinking it's still daytime and reducing hormones like melatonin, which help us relax and get deep sleep.
Like anything in life, getting quality sleep becomes easier if there’s a pattern or rhythm to follow. It lets your brain know it's time to transition into a different mindset - one that's ready to bring us to the land of rejuvenating ZZZ's.
Here are some wind-down ideas:
- have a warm bath or cup of herbal tea
- take a warm Epsom salt bath by candlelight
- listen to relaxing music
- remove clutter from your bedroom and create a sleep sanctuary instead
- spray a little lavender essential oil on your pillow
- read a calming paper book in bed, one kept just for bedtime
- process the day via journaling
- do a gratitude practice
8)Keep the bedroom cool and black it out
A cooler room, that’s as dark as possible, works better for deep sleep. Find a balance between that open window, bed covers, and what you wear to bed for a lower core body temperature that helps you drift off to sleep more quickly and deeply.
9)Do a mini-meditation to calm mental chatter
Here’s a 2-min tool that will set you up for a deep rejuvenating sleep:
• Lie in bed, lights out.
• Bring your index fingers up by your nose, one on each side.
• Begin to inhale and exhale through your nose. Slow your breath and for the next 2 minutes, do the following:
• Inhale. Plug your left nostril from the side.
• Exhale and inhale through your right nostril.
• Switch sides - right finger plugs the right nostril, left one releases.
• Exhale and inhale through your left nostril.
• Repeat this for 2 minutes or until you feel very calm and sleepy.
If your nose is partially blocked on one side, you'll find that it clears over the 2 minutes.
10) Experiment with bed and sleep times to find what works best for you:
remember we’re all different but most adults do best with between 7-9 hours of sleep a night, starting by 10 pm.
How To Help Teens and School Children Get Good Sleep
As parents, we can lead by example and help teens establish habits and attitudes about sleep they can carry with them throughout their lifetimes:
• Take the time to talk to teens and children about the importance of sleep and what a difference good consistent sleep makes.
• Work with them to help them stay on a consistent schedule throughout the week and weekend. An extra 30-60 minutes sleep-in on weekends won’t throw off their bio clocks, but more than that may.
• Prioritize sleep over late-night studying.
• Ensure exercise finishes within 4 hours of bedtime - exercise raises our core body temperature, which can keep teens alert and interfere with their ability to wind down for sleep.
• Like yours, make teens and children’s bedrooms tech-free.
• Set a digital cut off time for the household, a last-call for messaging and Insta posting.
• Keep their bedroom cool.
• Encourage them to take a warm bath or shower 90 minutes before bedtime.
• Teach them to avoid caffeinated and energy-drinks.
The Bottom Line
Good sleep is a true superpower for any age-group.
It is as important to our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, like nutrition and exercise. And when we learn how to get the sleep we need we set ourselves up to become unstoppable.