Sleep is important, right? You know that already. But how many times have you squeezed in an extra episode of House of Cards before bed, only to feel super groggy the next morning?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night to fire on all cylinders. But if you’re like us, sometimes life gets in the way of those uninterrupted hours of bliss. And research shows that most people ARE, in fact, like us: the CDC recently completed its first survey of sleep, and only 65 percent of Americans polled (out of 444,306 total participants) said that they get seven or more hours of sleep each night. That leaves a third of us reaching for that third cup of morning coffee.
And speaking of coffee, caffeinated beverages and artificial light (including the blue light coming from your beloved iPhone) can also mess with your circadian rhythm, which might be throwing that whole sleeping/waking thing completely out of whack.
Your best bet for catching those Z’s is to establish a routine that will allow your body to fully power down and recharge. Luke Sherwin, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of sleep brand Casper, clearly knows a thing or two about zonking out, so we tapped him for five tips to maximize beauty rest.
1. There’s no such thing as catching up.
It’s a myth that you can catch up on sleep over the weekend, so consistency is important. That means it’s up to you to go to bed and wake up around the same time each night. In addition to setting a morning alarm to wake you up, set one at night to remind you to go to sleep.
2. Turn your bedroom into an Eden of sleep.
Use blackout curtains to ensure your room is cool and dark, and get a white noise machine or app (editor’s note: we recommend TMSoft’s free white noise app or Sleep Time which offers both sounds to fall asleep to and a cool sleep tracking functionality) to block out annoying sounds. If you’re still sleeping in the same bed you did when you created your first AOL screen name, it might be time for an upgrade.
3. Travel to the land of your dreams.
Counting sheep isn’t actually a great way to fall asleep—processing all those ovines can overstimulate your brain. Instead, think about something relaxing, like your next vacation or a starry night sky.
4. Don’t go to bed hungry.
If you find yourself lying awake dreaming about breakfast, don’t succumb to a midnight bowl of ice cream. Instead, treat yourself to a small, carbohydrate-heavy snack with a bit of protein — like crackers with cheese. Healthy snacking an hour or two before bed tells the brain to start producing serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter.
5. The snooze button is not your friend.
When your alarm goes off in the morning, the snooze button can be more tempting than unsupervised cookies. But stay strong. The sleep you get between alarms is barely sleep. Snoozing just disturbs REM [cycle sleep], which makes you feel worse when you finally climb out of bed. Plus, there’s a bonus to getting up after your first alarm: Use the extra time to take a leisurely shower or to pick up a coffee on the way to work.