I Spent Two Weeks Trying to Perfect My Sleep Routine, and I Highly Recommend You Do the Same
Like almost everyone I know, the pandemic wreaked havoc on my sleep routine. (Coronasomnia is real, folks.) Increased stress, a new work from home schedule and, a little shamefully, the rise of TikTok made it easier than ever to spend hours scrolling in bed instead of focusing on getting a restful night’s sleep. And for a while, it was fine. Was my sleep hygiene at an all-time low? Probably, but it’s a pandemic, and I reasoned that I was allowed to cut myself some slack.
Then, about a month ago, I realized that my screwed-up sleep schedule was not only making me tired, it was making me unhappy (more on the connection between sleep and happiness later). So, I decided to do something about it: I promised myself that I’d spend two weeks perfecting (or, more accurately, trying to perfect) my sleep routine. Would I feel more rested? Would I feel happier? Yes and yes. Read on for some ways to overhaul your sleep hygiene—plus why it’s so important in the first place.
4 Reasons to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
1. You’ll Probably Feel HappierAccording to the Sleep Foundation, sufficient sleep, especially REM sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information. “During sleep, the brain works to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories, and it appears that a lack of sleep is especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotional content. This can influence mood and emotional reactivity and is tied to mental health disorders and their severity, including the risk of suicidal ideas or behaviors.”
2. Your Immune System Will Function Better
Sleep is always important, but doubly so during a pandemic. “The most important immune supporting tool that I see most [people] in the Western world eschew is adequate sleep, Rand McClain, M.D. tells us. “Regular sleep—seven to nine hours nightly—and during roughly the same period, daily exercise and proper nutrition (including hydration) are keys to maintaining health and a well-functioning immune system.”
3. You’ll Perform Better in All Aspects of Your Life
In a comprehensive sleep study conducted by the University of Turku in Finland in 2007, people who were sleep deprived had reduced reaction time, a more limited ability to pay attention, difficulty with both short- and long-term memory, trouble with logical reasoning and critical thinking and were not able to switch between tasks as easily.
4. You Might Lose Weight
Yes, diet and exercise are important when it comes to metabolism, but Samantha Cassetty, RD, the chief nutrition officer for magnesium brand OMG! Nutrition, points to another factor—sleep—which could work against you, metabolism-wise. “Sleep deprivation has a profound impact on your body’s internal metabolic processes, and shortchanging your sleep for even just one night can disrupt your hormones and increase your appetite,” she says. “A week of sleep deprivation can alter your metabolism in other ways, and if you sustain poor sleep habits over time, it ups the chance of weight problems and other health concerns.” Beyond that, studies—like this one published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship—have shown that a lack of sleep can increase hunger and cravings, as well as cause weight gain by messing with levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin.
4 Tips for Getting Out of a Crappy Sleep Schedule
1. Spend Time Outside—Every DayWhen it’s super cold, super-hot or just generally gross outside, it can be tempting to skip your daily walk around the neighborhood. But exposing yourself to even a few minutes of natural blue light in the morning can be a game-changer, sleep-wise. “Expose yourself to sunlight first thing in the morning by going for a 15-minute walk, suggests behavioral sleep medicine specialist Lisa Medalie, PsyD, CBSM. “It improves circadian rhythm and morning alertness, thereby reducing insomnia.”
2. Leave Your Phone Outside of Your Bedroom
Just because keeping your phone in bed with you is common doesn’t make it healthy. The blue light from the screens on our beloved devices can trick the brain into thinking it’s still daytime, messing up our circadian rhythm, the physiological cycle that informs our sleep. Andrew Varga, M.D., a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York explains, “Electronic devices with backlit screens emit a very high percentage of blue wavelength light. Exposure to blue light from any source—including TVs, cell phones, laptops, e-readers and tablets—late in the day has the effect of advancing our circadian phase, meaning it makes it so that one will become naturally tired later in the night.” The lesson here? Invest in an old-school alarm clock so you can leave your phone outside the bedroom. (Psst: It’s also better for your sex life.)
3. Exercise in the Morning (Even If It’s Just a Quick Walk)
For people who are having trouble falling asleep at night, Dr. Varga recommends working out in the morning as it can “promote wakefulness and possibly make it easier to fall asleep later on.” If that’s not doable, Dr. Varga says to make sure any exercise is completed at least three hours before the sleep onset time (i.e., the time you want to fall asleep) since exercise will energize you. And don’t worry; “working out in the morning” doesn’t have to mean a high intensity sweat sesh. Even a brisk walk to your favorite coffee shop will benefit your sleep routine.
4. Go to Sleep (and Wake Up) at the Same Time Every Day
Yes, it’s tempting to go to sleep late on Friday night and “make up” for it by sleeping in on Saturday, but varying your sleep times can be harmful to your restfulness. Try to work toward waking up and getting out of bed at the same time every day—regardless of when you have work—to get your sleep and wake times on track. “Much of it is about personal limit-setting, recognizing the environmental factors and personal habits that have the capacity to disrupt one’s sleep schedule,” Dr. Varga says, “and trying to minimize the variance in daily sleep onset and offset time, particularly between weekend and weekday times.”
6 Products to Help You Get Your Best Sleep Ever
1. Slip Pure Silk Sleep Mask
We’ve written about this game-changing sleep mask before, but it bears repeating. It’s made from 100 percent pure silk, so it’s supersoft and feels so good on your skin. Unlike many masks you can wear it for eight hours (or ten…) without it budging. It also doesn’t leave the dreaded hair indentation, and you’ll never wake up with those telltale just-woke-up eye creases. Another plus: Apparently, the 100 percent pure silk prevents long-term wrinkles caused by tossing and turning all night.
2. Kin Euphorics Dream Light
Kin Euphorics’s "mood-defining drinks" are made to make you feel good, buzzy vibes without alcohol. Dream Light, meant to be sipped before sleep, contains a blend of adaptogens (like reishi mushrooms), botanics (like oak, clove and ginger) and nootropics (like melatonin and L-theanine), to promote relaxation before bedtime, less stress throughout the night and a clearer, more restorative waking experience. Because it’s considered an herbal supplement, Dream Light isn’t regulated by the FDA, so we don’t know if nootropics or adaptogens really work. But, in our experience, drinking this intensely herbal-tasting bevvy before bed is a soothing way to drift into a restful sleep.
3. Casper Glow Light
Casper created this sleep lamp to help you wind down, fall asleep and wake more easily. The warm light is designed to help you relax as you get ready for bed, then slowly dims to let you know it’s time for sleep. In the morning, it gradually fills the room with soft light to let your body know it’s time to wake up.
4. Bearaby Tree Napper Weighted Blanket
There are tons of benefits of weighted blankets. But perhaps most importantly, they calm the nervous system and provide a feeling of comfort which can ward off insomnia and restless sleep. This one from Bearaby is our personal favorite because not only is its heavy pressure relaxing, it looks chic folded on the end of our bed too.
5. Traditional Medicinals Chamomile Tea
Chamomile has been used as an herbal sleep remedy for centuries—for good reason. Studies have shown that it has a mild sedative effect when consumed. So go ahead and brew yourself a pot, but make sure that you let it steep for the recommended amount of time so you get the full benefits.
6. Snooz White Noise Sound Machine
Some white noise machines are better than others, and this is one of the best. That’s because it has a fan inside it, so it offers a peaceful, real sound rather than a looping track. Dr. Joshua Tal, Ph.D., a New York City-based psychologist specializing in insomnia notes that while he’d have to hear it for himself before fully endorsing it, the SNOOZ sounds pretty promising since fan-based white noise machines are considered to be the most effective.