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This Self Care Sunday post is all about sleep. Sleep is the one true luxury that even some of the wealthiest among us can’t afford. Everyone needs their beauty rest but everything gets in the way of it. Whether it’s stress, work, work-related stress, crying babies, partying, or our own ambitions keeping us ap at night, we’ve got to make a collective effort to go to sleep. Americans, on average, get about 7 hours and 36 minutes of sleep each night with those under the age of 30 getting the least amount of sleep. Nearly one-quarter of all women report waking up feeling tired in comparison to only 16% of men. The stats are staggering but fret not, I’ve got some great tips to help you get more sleep backed by science!

Create a Sleep Sanctuary

We may not realize it but our bodies can truly get restful sleep if we are sleeping in an environment we feel familiar with. Your sleeping atmosphere should be completely free from distractions. Most of us sleep in our bedrooms but we also might use our bedrooms as a multi-use room where we watch TV, work on our laptops, run our businesses, workout, entertain guests, or anything else that has absolutely nothing to do with sleeping. To our brains, we’re trying to sleep in an active environment and we don’t process it very well.

Your sleep sanctuary should be a clean, peaceful environment. For those of us running business out of our bedrooms (and those of us who are so busy we barely even see our bedrooms), cleanliness is key. Clutter and unkempt spaces make us anxious and that anxiety can prevent us from having a good night’s sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, it can take some time for the body to come down from technology’s alerting effects. So for an optimal sleeping experience, try removing technology from the bedroom. Yes, this means no sleeping with the TV on and placing your cell phones and tablets in either your walk-in closet or just outside of your bedroom door.

Choose soothing colors for your walls, sheets, blankets, and decor. This will help ease your transition into sleep by calming and relaxing you before bed.

Lights Out

Light emitted from our many devices aren’t the only things that keep us up at night. If you’re a city-dweller there is a lot of external light that creeps its way into our bedrooms. Keeping your bedroom as dark as possible informs your internal body clock that it’s time for sleep, releasing the sleepy hormone melatonin. Try adding black out curtains to the windows and investing in a good blindfold.

The Kitchen is Closed

There’s nothing like going to bed on a full stomach (especially around the holidays). But research shows that we should stop eating 2-3 hours before bedtime if we want to have restful sleep. This gives the body time to digest the food. You will also want to avoid eating foods that can keep you up for other reasons. Love things spicy, fried, high in fat or sugar? Me too but not before bed. Those foods can cause heartburn, gas, indigestion and other gastrointestinal issues that will disrupt your sleep. Foods that are high in fiber, while healthy, can also keep you up at night. Try packing these types of foods in your lunch hour versus dinner.

This may be a no brainer but caffeine is out and—gasp!—if you really want to keep your sleep schedule on track you should take your last caffeinated sip by noon. And while a nice glass of wine may help lull you to sleep sooner, it can interrupt your sleep cycle as well so steer clear of alcoholic beverages before bedtime. If you need a second wind from energy drinks, coffees, teas or sodas, you’ll have to get that by lunchtime too.

Work It Out

Your daily cardio isn’t just helping keep your body fit and fab. People who work out tend to sleep better and longer than those who don’t. When you add a vigorous, 1-2 hour daily workout to your life, your body is usually exhausted by the time you are ready for bed. This means that when you finally lay down for bed, you’ll actually go to sleep!

This applies to bedroom workouts, too. (*Hint, hint. Wink, wink. You know what I mean? Yeah, you know what I mean.*) Sex is a wonderful sleep aide! Orgasms release prolactin, a hormone that makes us feel relaxed and sleepy.

You’ll get the best sleep if you finish your workout at the gym at least 3 hours before you go to sleep. You might get even better sleep if you have sex just before your bedtime.

Keep Your Cool

This may come as a shocker but according to science the perfect temperature for sleep is between 65º F-72º F. Clearly my grandmother did not get that memo as it was a smooth 80º F in her house at all times. However, SCIENCE SAYS that a cooler room prepares the body for better sleep. This is said to encourage the degree drop we need in core body temperature to fall asleep. If your sleep conditions are too warm, it may interfere with your body’s natural dip and make you more restless through the night. Studies show that some forms of insomnia are associated with an improper regulation in body temperature.

Other helpful sleeping tips

  • If you “hate sleeping alone” and feel like you can’t sleep without someone next to you, try a weighted blanket. I use one personally and it makes me feel cuddled which helps me fall asleep easier.
  • Meditate and try yoga. Mindful meditation has been linked to activating the relaxation response within the body. Yoga can help calm your body and mind making it easier to drift off to sleep.
  • Remember, your bedroom is SASSY: Sleep And Sex Sanctuary (for) You. If you stick to those two activities in the bedroom only, your brain will be primed to only do those two activities in the bedroom. Can’t go wrong with that!