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Tips to Improve Your Sleep

If you are anything like me, the late hours of the night are spent with your mind racing a mile a minute. There are few times throughout the day that I have more energy than bedtime hours. Being a night owl can be tough. Lack of sleep can cause various mental and physical issues. A good night’s sleep (about 8 hours for adults) helps your body and brain to function well throughout the day. If you are someone that finds yourself unable to rest and fall asleep with ease, or you’re just a plain insomniac, then this article is for you.

1. Ditch the Electronics!

The screens of televisions, laptops, and cellphones contain blue light. Blue light causes your body to slow down on producing melatonin (the very chemical that leads you to sleep). Staring at your phone screen in the dark messes up your body’s sleep cycle and tells it that it is time to wake up. Great thing about your handy dandy iPhone is that it comes with a “night mode” option that emits less blue light. If you really need to scroll through Twitter before hitting the hay, utilize night mode. However, I would strongly recommend reading a book, doodling, or journaling instead.

2. Avoid Certain Foods and Water After 9 PM

According to various studies and vast research, there are certain foods that can either help or harm your sleep. High-carb foods can hinder your ability to get a good night’s sleep. On the other hand, high-fat foods can actually assist you in having a deeper, more restful sleep. Whatever meal you choose to eat, make sure its four hours before you want to go to bed to make sure your stomach digests it. Another tip is to hold off on drinking any beverage an hour before you go to sleep. While drinking more water has limitless benefits, it should be throughout the day, not during the nighttime. Your bladder can actually wake you up during the night, so drink your tea/water an hour or two beforehand!

3. Control your Thoughts

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of not being able to sleep is having your thoughts wander. “Did I lock the door? I have 3 exams next week. I need to make a dentist appointment. Why doesn’t he like me back? I need to get a job and make money before spring break.” These thoughts aren’t usually the soothing kind. When you find yourself back in the habit of worrying and stressing while you lay awake, instead try to snap yourself into thinking of something that calms you or makes you happy. Personally, I am most at peace when laying on a beach in the Caribbean. So when I begin to stress out, I draw myself back to imagining white sand, crystal blue water, palm trees, tropical birds etc. Think. Good. Thoughts. I promise it makes a world of difference.

4. Use this Breathing Method

When I find myself in desperate need of sleep, yet still wide awake at 4 in the morning, I use the 4-7-8 breathing method. This breathing pattern relaxes the nervous system. The steps are as follows. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths. The most important part of this process is holding your breath for 7 seconds. I was shocked in how helpful the 4-7-8 method was in helping me to fall asleep. It is a life hack that I often practice.

5. Change your Environment

There are a multitude of recommendations that sleep doctors have made in terms of the environment in which you sleep. Obviously, comfort is key. Make sure your mattress, pillows and blankets are up to par. But less obvious is the fact that cooler temperatures promote sleep. Aromatherapy and diffusers have also been a new fad in helping people get a full night’s rest. Additionally, white noise, relaxing music and sound machines have proven beneficial to many people. I fall asleep much faster when hearing the distant hum of an air conditioner or rain tapping on my window. However, others prefer complete silence, so see what works for you.

Everyone sleeps differently. I only can give you what studies and research have proven, as well as my own personal testimony. If you are having a lot of issues sleeping or you consider yourself a chronic night owl like me, try out some of these tips and adjust accordingly to see what works best for you. Wishing you the best of luck and a future abundance of beauty sleep!

Emma Hageney is a Strategic Communications major with a double concentration in both Advertising and Public Relations and a General Business minor at the University of Scranton. She aspires to become either an advertising or public relations executive in the future. She enjoys traveling, surfing, skiing, music, anything outdoors and movies (especially Star Wars and Harry Potter)!
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