How to Get Better Sleep

I have mentioned before that we have been on a mission to get better sleep. As a rule, our culture does not value sleep. Shouldn’t we all be able to function on just a few hours a night? No. God made us to need sleep. Our bodies are dependent on sleep and nutrition. Without it, we cannot function well.

Sleep sometimes evades us, not because we don’t have time for it, but because we don’t make time for it. In her book 168 Hours, Laura Vanderkam interviews many highly successful people that are getting a lot accomplished at work, having time with their families, and still getting enough sleep. So why can’t we?

Those of you with kids know that when your kids don’t get enough sleep they are more susceptible to sickness, they are usually overly emotional, and they often will behave more poorly than usual. Guess what? It is the same with us!

As adults, we may be able to cope better. But over the long haul, lack of sleep is never a good tradeoff. Most adults in America are in a chronic state of sleep deprivation.

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Make it a priority.

We have time for what is important to us. The end. Turn of the TV earlier. Close the book. Shut the laptop. Walk away from the project. It is pretty simple, actually.

We will be happier, more productive, think more clearly when making decisions, respond better to less-than-ideal situations, and be less swayed by our emotions if we get sleep.

But it is much easier said than done. Here are some things that we have found to make sleep more successful.

Shutdown the computer.

Our bodies produce melatonin at night time to sleep. This is what regulates our sleep and wake cycles. The lights in a computer or TV screen hinder our bodies from producing this, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep. It is helpful to shut down screen activity 30 minutes to an hour before going to bed. It will really make a difference.

Setting a night-time alarm to remind you to shut the computer down is helpful if you tend to get sidetracked. Use that time before bed to wind down, read a book (which is a lot easier on the eyes), or spend some time with your spouse.

I read quite a few sleep studies about the significance that screen lights have on our sleep, but I was still pretty skeptical about it. Enough studies, though, convinced me we should try it. Both Brian and I have seen a significant difference in our sleep simply by shutting things down and not looking at a screen right before bed.

Sleep in a dark room.

We recently just moved our rooms around and as a result I was able to put up our room darkening curtains. I cannot tell you what a difference this makes for sleep. In France, where I grew up, we had shutters that would make the room pitch black at night. How I miss those shutters! Dark curtains or blinds, even a towel taped on the window if you have to, will help you get better sleep. (I have heard these shades work pretty well)

Research indicates that any type of light can negatively affect our sleep. That means night lights, clocks, little red lights from phones, or anything like that. A completely dark room will make a huge difference in your sleep patterns.

By the way, it is a great idea to do this in your kids’ room as well. Our kids sleep in a completely dark room and I really do think that is one reason they are such good sleepers. If this is new to your children, I would cut back on the amount of light little by little so that they don’t get scared.

Develop a pattern.

Let’s face it. If one day you go, go, go until midnight and then crash in bed, and the next night you decide to be conscientious and go to bed at 9 pm, your body is just not going to know what to do.

Whatever time you decide to go to bed, try to be fairly consistent. That is when your body will start to sense a pattern and you will have an easier time falling asleep.

Once you are on a pretty good cycle you will have fewer sleepless nights, and you will actually wake up in the morning refreshed.

A few other things to help you get better sleep:

  • Drink some herbal tea. This is another carry-over from France, I guess. They often finish out the evening with a cup of soothing herbal tea. It is a great way to signal to your body that it is time to rest.
  • Change your pillow case. I know, you probably don’t want to change your entire bed, but changing just your pillow case to a fresh clean one can really help you sleep better. Even better? Iron and starch your pillowcases. It is like my own little luxury.
  • Sleep in a cool room. If there is anything that will keep me from sleeping well it is being too hot. Keep the temperature mild if at all possible.
  • Listen to calming music. My husband loves putting on his iPod to classical music before bed. Listening to the music helps him shut down his brain to other things and allows him to fall asleep better once it is time.
  • Do a brain dump. I have said it before, but if you mind is reeling with a to-do list, sleep will evade you. Get rid of some mind clutter.
  • Earlier is better. You can get the same number of hours of sleep, but the earlier hours are generally better. (I.e. sleeping from 10pm-6am will feel more restful than 12am-8am). There are some people that are genuine night-owls, but this is a general rule to follow.

What do you do to make sure you get adequate sleep? All tips welcome!

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Comments

  1. Steph says:

    We recently had to turn our air conditioning to a lower temperature in order to sleep better at night. It wasn’t the temperature that was getting to us, it was the humidity when the air would stay off all night. I’m not happy about the electric bill but at least we’re all sleeping a bit better.

    Something I’ve done in the past when it’s been hard for me to get to bed is to get all ready for bed about an hour before I go to bed. It’s easier to stop reading or working on something and head to bed if my teeth are already brushed.

    • Johanna says:

      That’s a really great idea. I think sometimes I don’t want to stop because I am too lazy to get up and get ready for bed! I think I’ll try this!

  2. Paul Dobbins says:

    Invest in a great mattress. Shop for a mattress that fits you and your partner. We spend a great deal of money for a vehicle that we spend a few hours a day in at best. Then we skimp on our mattress and our bedding, and we spend 6-8 hours a day in bed.
    Another key to a great night’s sleep is to wash your face, and wipe your hair down with a warm damp wash cloth. If you remove pollen and other allergens from your head you will sleep better and wake up refreshed.

  3. Don’t forget the power of white noise (or brown, or pink, or whatever pitch you prefer). Turn on a desk fan, or use a free white noise app on your phone.

    Also, get an inexpensive hygrometer and check the humidity levels in your bedroom. Optimal levels are 40-60%. If it falls lower, get a $25 humidifier from Walmart.

    And if you’re like me, and you do all these things and still can’t sleep – PLEASE talk to your doctor! Don’t be afraid to try sleep medications. There’s all sorts of herbal and prescriptions aids that will help. Far better to be getting regular sleep with the help of a pill, than to be run-down and exhausted all the time.

    • Johanna says:

      Those are some really good tips. In our case we have to have a dehumidifier running constantly because of mold/humidity issues in our apartment.

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