Proper Sleep Rituals Means Better Rest

Do you ever wake up feeling groggy and more tired than when you first went to bed? Even though you may have gotten 8 full hours, for some reason your head still feels cloudy and you just want to keep hitting snooze. So why is this? Chances are your pre-bedtime rituals are causing you to get restless nights of sleep. Kick some habits, acquire new good ones, and you'll find within weeks that you will be sleeping like a baby (not the newborn-crying-through-the-night kind though).

Drink tea, not alcohol.

After drinking a couple beers or glasses of wine with dinner, you may think that you will be lulled off into a deep sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. However, alcohol has proven to cause more restlessness and moving in your sleep. Instead, limit your alcohol intake and try to drink earlier in the evening. Additionally, have some hot sleepy time tea (without caffeine!) before bed to warm and relax your body.

Turn down the lights, turn off the screens

Many of us are guilty of this far too often: either watching your favorite TV program as a bed-time routine, or falling asleep to a movie. Don't do this! Even though the sound of the TV in the background may help you fall asleep, bright screens and lights inhibit the melatonin production in your brain, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. Your brain needs to know when to begin firing away the melatonin, and it won't do so until you are in a dark place. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and screen-free before you go to bed. Instead of watching TV, read a book with just your desk lamp on or just close your eyes and count some sheep.

Don't eat too much right before bed

Everyone likes to have a small midnight snack, but chances are you're eating more than you should, too late in the night. When you are sleeping, you are essentially putting your body through an 8-hour fast; completely deprived of water and food. This means that your body goes into reserve mode, using as little energy as possible, including your metabolism. By putting a bunch of food into your body right before bed, your body will store all that energy in the form of fat to be used slowly throughout the night. Instead of eating a family sized bag of greasy chips, try a cup of cottage cheese with some fruit, or maybe a grilled cheese sandwich. All in all, keep it light, and don't eat within one hour of going to bed.

Stretch and meditate

Stretching before bed will not only help your body feel fully relaxed, but it will also aid in promoting circulation so you don't get annoying cramps when you sleep. Meditating doesn't always consist of putting ambient noise on your IPod, lighting candles, loud ohms and ahs, and thinking of your spirit animal. Meditating can simply be sitting with good posture, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breathing for five minutes. This will help you to relax your body and clear your mind, which as we will discuss next, you will find very helpful to getting good rest.

Clear your mind

Ever hear the expression "Don't lose sleep over it."? Well the literal meaning holds more weight to it than you'd think. Have you ever found your mind racing as you're trying to fall asleep? Whether you're worrying about the parking ticket you got today, your appointment tomorrow, or the bills that are due next week, all of these things crowding your mind will detract from a good nights rest. If there are any pressing things going on in your life, write 'em down! Our brains can only process so many things at once, and when you're sleeping you don't want to have to process anything at all besides your sweet dreams. Keep a running to-do list, start a dream journal (try lucid dreaming), and make sure to clear your mind of all worries before going to bed. You will sleep better, and wake up feeling more prepared.

While all of these tips will greatly contribute to helping you sleep better, the most important part to remember is to establish a consistent routine. You can develop all 5 of these habits within a week, but if you don't stay consistent with them then they will not be effective. By getting into a routine, your brain will begin to recognize the signs and program itself to begin the bedtime sequence at a specific time every night. Before you know it, you will begin to notice that you will start feeling sleepy more consistently every night. Happy sleeping!