Get the sleep you deserve! Learn effective strategies for a good night’s sleep through exercise, meditation, and reading before bed.
We all know that a good night’s rest is essential to our physical and mental health, but falling asleep can be easier said than done for a variety of reasons. Karman Meyer, author of EAT TO SLEEP, shares a trio of activities you should do before bed to ensure you get in those Zzz’s!
In addition to making dietary changes to help tackle sleep issues, there is a variety of other practices you can put in place to find a good night’s sleep. Following are a few nonfood approaches that you can implement along with your nutritional changes. What works well for one person may not be as effective for someone else in regard to sleep, but there are only positive benefits to be had by putting any of these practices into action.
Each of the recommendations in this section offers a range of benefits, but one thing they all have in common is they’re each a stress reducer. If stress is a primary reason you’re experiencing sleepless nights, try adding at least one or two of these practices to your daily routine!
Physical activity offers many more benefits than just getting in shape or maintaining weight. It’s essential for mental health, stress management, reducing risk of many chronic diseases, adequate energy levels during the day, and getting quality sleep at night. I personally have noticed that if I don’t keep up with my usual exercise routine, my sleep begins to suffer. That alone is motivation enough for me to get back to being more physically active!
A 2011 study in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity found that men and women ages eighteen through eighty-five who did 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week had a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality. They also reported feeling less tired during the day. To think of the 150 minutes per week in different terms, that’s 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a day, five days a week. If you’re limited on time for exercise during the week, bump up the intensity of your exercise to something more vigorous and aim for 75 minutes a week.
The word meditation may bring to mind images of monks living in monasteries in far-off lands, or maybe it seems like a practice that is out of reach unless you have an hour to devote to it, but meditation is something we all have access to any time of day.
Meditation is simply a time to reflect or hit the pause button on your day to focus on your breath, which can be revitalizing and calming all at once. Taking the time to bring awareness to the breath can help reduce anxiety and stop racing thoughts.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You wake up an hour and a half or so before the alarm is set to go off, and rather than getting up you fight to fall back asleep to make the most of that remaining time. Lying there in bed, maybe buried under the covers, your mind starts to think about everything on the to-do list for the day and, at the same time, stressing over the fact that there’s only a short period of time left before the alarm rings.
This anxious state is not going to help you get back to sleep fast. Instead, if you find yourself waking up an hour or two before your alarm is set to go off, try meditating. I know this is easier said than done, but if practiced, it can be accomplished, and you can return to a peaceful sleep.
I’ve found myself here many times before, and when I become aware of my racing thoughts, I make the conscious decision to turn off those thoughts and instead focus on my breath. In a few minutes, I’m usually back asleep until the alarm sounds. If this tactic doesn’t work for you, it’s best to get out of bed and go into a dimly lit room to do a quiet activity like reading a book or the newspaper or working on a crossword puzzle until you find yourself yawning and feeling sleepy again.
Snuggling up in bed with a book is a relaxing way to end the day. It allows your mind a chance to escape from everything else that may have taken place and to enter a different world, if even for a few minutes. If you are at all like me, reading in bed is a surefire way to fall asleep fast!
A friend of mine recently told me she likes listening to audiobooks while drifting off to sleep. She admits she doesn’t usually recall much of what happened in the book, so she’s often starting in the same spot over and over, but it’s an effective tool to help her fall asleep fast. If you choose to read a book on a device in bed, be sure to use the blue light filters to avoid interfering with the body’s natural circadian rhythm; otherwise, you may be counteracting the potential benefits.
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Q: Why is a good night’s rest important for our health?
A: A good night’s rest is essential for both our physical and mental health. It helps promote overall well-being, supports cognitive function, boosts immune function, and contributes to better mood and productivity.
Q: What are some common difficulties in falling asleep?
A: Falling asleep can be challenging due to various reasons such as stress, anxiety, racing thoughts, discomfort, irregular sleep schedule, and certain medical conditions like insomnia.
Q: What are the three pre-bed activities recommended for better sleep?
A: The three pre-bed activities recommended are exercise, meditation, and reading before bed.
Q: Are there other practices besides dietary changes that can help improve sleep?
A: Yes, besides dietary changes, there are several nonfood approaches that can aid in improving sleep quality, such as exercise, meditation, establishing a bedtime routine, creating a sleep-friendly environment, and managing stress
Q: Do nonfood approaches have different effects on individuals?
A: Yes, the effects of nonfood approaches can vary from person to person. What works well for one individual may not be as effective for another. It’s important to find the practices that suit your needs and preferences.
Q: What are the benefits of exercise for sleep quality?
A: Exercise offers numerous benefits for sleep quality, including improved mental health, stress reduction, reduced risk of chronic diseases, increased energy levels during the day, and better sleep quality at night.
Q: How much exercise is recommended for better sleep?
A: It is generally recommended to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week, which can be achieved by exercising for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If time is limited, increasing the intensity of exercise to something more vigorous and aiming for 75 minutes a week can also be beneficial.
Q: What is meditation and how does it help with sleep?
A: Meditation is a practice that involves focusing the mind and bringing awareness to the present moment. It can help calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and stop racing thoughts, promoting a sense of relaxation and aiding in falling asleep faster.
Q: Can meditation be done at any time of the day?
A: Yes, meditation can be practiced at any time of the day, including before bed. Taking a few minutes to meditate before sleep can help quiet the mind and prepare the body for a restful night’s sleep.
Q: How can reading before bed contribute to better sleep?
A: Reading before bed can be a relaxing activity that allows the mind to unwind and escape from the stresses of the day. It helps create a calming bedtime routine and can promote better sleep by inducing a sense of relaxation.
Q: Are there any precautions to consider when reading on electronic devices?
A: When reading on electronic devices, it is advisable to use blue light filters or switch to e-readers with e-ink displays to avoid disrupting the body’s natural circadian rhythm. The blue light emitted by electronic screens can interfere with sleep.
Q: What should I do if I wake up before my alarm and can’t fall back asleep?
A: If you find yourself awake before your alarm and unable to fall back asleep, you can try techniques like meditation or getting out of bed to engage in a quiet and calming activity until you feel sleepy again.
Q: Can stress reduction be a key factor in improving sleep?
A: Yes, stress reduction is crucial for improving sleep. High levels of stress can interfere with sleep quality and make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Implementing stress reduction techniques like exercise, meditation, and reading can positively impact sleep.
Q: Should I try all the recommended practices or just choose a few?
A: It is not necessary to try all the recommended practices if they don’t resonate with you. You can choose the ones that appeal to you the most and experiment with incorporating them into your daily routine to see which ones work best for improving your sleep.
Q: Are there any additional tips or suggestions for achieving a restful night’s sleep?
A: Some additional tips for achieving a restful night’s sleep include maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, limiting caffeine and electronic device usage before bed, and practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or taking a warm bath.