Looking for easy ways to improve how connected you feel on a daily basis? Here’s one you literally can do in your sleep.
Good mental health and well-being truly begin with getting enough sleep. Research shows that nearly all our most essential life activities depend on it. Our ability to cope with stress, fight off illness, gain or lose weight, learn new things, and retain memories are all affected by the amount of quality rest we get. Sleep also impacts how much we eat, how fast our metabolisms run, how creatively we think, and how fast we process information. It’s really, really important…for living, for thinking, and for connecting.
So let’s get a little more serious about our shuteye. People have written entire books about this subject, and I have a comprehensive checklist from my days as a hospital sleep hygiene instructor at Harvard Medical School, but these three basic tips should get you on a healthier path.
Go to sleep and get up around the same time every day, seven days a week. This is THE #1 most important thing you can do to improve your sleep habits – more important even than the amount of sleep you get. After just a few days of regular bedtimes and wakeup, your body’s natural circadian rhythms will kick in and help you fall asleep faster, with more solid, satisfying rest.
Make sure that your room is cool, completely dark, and that all electronics and glowing lights are removed or covered up. If you can’t sleep without your phone in the room, put it on airplane mode. You want to reduce the amount of heat, light and electromagnetic waves, and make sure your room is a sacred sleep sanctuary.
Minimize all screentime (TV, smartphone, computer, etc.) during the last hour or two before bedtime. Blue light in these screens blocks the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin, keeping you awake past your natural schedule. If you like to read before bed, keep it old school with actual paper books, not Kindles or tablet readers. And if you must look at your devices one last time before bed (to set an alarm or because you really only have an e-reader), make sure to set your device to the lowest brightness you can tolerate. Turn on the “night time” function available on most smartphones, and choose the black background option available on most e-readers. The goal is to minimize the amount of bright light hitting your eyeballs. It’s also worth critically evaluating whether you let yourself peek at emails right before bed…if you anticipate the sender or topic will set your brain churning, save it for the morning!
For much more on sleep hygiene and its role in promoting authentic connection, keep an eye out for my forthcoming book, Connection: Connection: How to Find the Life You’re Looking for in the Life You Have.