The 6 Key Steps to Unlocking Your Best Sleep Ever

A messy bed.

There is nothing like starting your day from a good night’s sleep. Your mind is sharper, you can focus better on tasks, and you are generally in a good mood. However, what happens when we do not have a good night’s sleep? The average adult in the U.S. needs about seven hours of sleep each night, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, 73 percent of us don’t meet that goal. 

The Dangers of Missing Sleep

Lack of sleep negatively impacts us with an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. 

Your tired body wants to conserve energy, so it’s challenging to find the motivation to work out, and an exhausted brain often confuses sleep deprivation with a need for glucose, which triggers sugar cravings and late-night snacking. We may “make it up” over the weekend, but a recent study from 2016 found that we take four days to fully recover from one hour of lost sleep. So if you lost sleep every other day during the workweek, catching up over the weekend won’t be as useful. 

Fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer

It’s worth noting that not everyone needs the same number of hours of sleep every night. Some people need eight hours or more, and others feel great with six hours or less. 

To figure out how much sleep you need, asses how you feel the next day over a few days, and try these six strategies to help you fall asleep and experience a more restorative night’s rest.

1. Cool your room at night. Studies show that we fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer when the ambient temperature in our sleeping area is 65-72 degrees. Just like our sleeping hours, we have different comfort levels, so try different temperatures to see what works best for you.

2. Set aside time for sleep. Sleep is so important it deserves a place in our daily schedule. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day so you can establish a predictable sleeping pattern and improve the sleep cycles you experience while snoozing.

3. Practice deep breathing. Deep breaths help to oxygenate the blood and tissues, remove toxins, and calm the mind. Try this breathing pattern for three minutes to breathe yourself to sleep each night: Inhale for six counts through your nose, hold four seconds, then exhale to the count of 10.

4. Eliminate electronics. Screens are a distraction, and the light it emits stimulates the brain and makes it difficult to fall asleep. Put your phone down or turn off your TV before falling asleep to help your mind and body calm down more quickly.

5. Avoid alcohol before bed. That nightcap before bed can do more harm than good, negatively impacting your ability to reach REM sleep, the most restorative part of the sleep cycle. You’ll wake up more refreshed and renewed if you skip the evening cocktail and choose water instead.

6. Incorporate active movement every day. 30 minutes of being active every day can help prepare the body for a restful night’s sleep. Make time for a workout or an activity that keeps you moving, and you’ll notice better sleep and a better outlook in the morning.

Is sleep remaining elusive?

Lack of adequate sleep and the inability to establish regular sleep patterns can have both mental and physical health consequences, even affecting the immune system’s ability to fight off infection. If you are still having trouble sleep or experiencing chronic sleep, talk to a doctor.

How do I know I’m sleeping enough?

Nearly 80 percent of American adults report that they would feel better and more prepared for the day if they could only get an extra hour of sleep each night.

Take note of how you feel each morning to gauge the quality of your sleep. If you feel rested and ready to jump out of bed, you’re at an appropriate place. If the snooze button on your alarm gets more of a workout than you do, it’s time to reassess your sleep habits and practice some sleep hygiene to get your body the rest it craves.

Anschutz Health and Wellness Center