Tip No. 1: Chill Out
Relaxing isn't a luxury—it's a necessity. Your mind and your body need you to fully chill out in order to operate at full steam, and we get this done most efficiently while resting. So if you sit all day at work or are still upset about the state of the world, that can negatively impact sleep. "You can't fall asleep when you're stressed out, because your body is producing the stress hormone that tells your body to be active," says Kalle Simpson, the co-founder of the innovative pillow brand, Night. "Anything to alleviate that stress is super-important."
"When we're in our deepest sleep state, our muscles actually paralyze, so you need to ease into that." –Kalle Simpson
There are many ways to wind down, it all just depends on what you like to do. When your mind is racing before bed or you're stressed about an upcoming exam, do an activity that will help you reach zen, like meditation. "Everyone has different coping mechanisms to deal with stress," Simpson notes, "whether it's exercising, going to the sauna, or the spa… anything that relaxes your mind is really going to be beneficial."
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Tip No. 2: BYO Pillow
Going out of town? Camping? Sleeping over at your BFF's? Make room in your suitcase for your pillow. Seriously. "It's a good idea to travel with your pillow… sleep is all about doing what's regular," Simpson says. And if there's anything that's constant in your nighttime routine, it's the presence of your own pillow. "Honestly, hotel pillows could contain allergens and bumps that actually disrupt your sleep quality—bringing your own bedding materials is the best way to ensure that doesn't happen." Plus, you'll have a comfy place to rest your head on the way to your overnight.
Tip No. 3: Lean Back
"Humans are one of the animals that can't fall asleep when sitting or standing," Simpson says. Sure, you can doze off, but it's unlikely you'll get far into la la dreamland. "When we're in our deepest sleep state, our muscles actually paralyze, so you need to ease into that." When you're on the go, say on a plane, avoid the middle seat. "Try to opt for the window seat so you can rest your head against it," she says. "Leaning back is important, too. If you're sitting up, your body is pumping all this blood and warming up," which Simpson mentions is not effective for a good snooze.
Tip No. 4: Turn Down the Temp
Even with the polar vortex plaguing some of you in the world, you'll want to be a little chilly before bed. "Temperature is important for being comfortable," Simpson says. "Typically you want to be a little bit colder than warmer—to fall asleep, your body temperature has to drop 3 degrees." A good space should be around 60 to 67 degrees, which increases melatonin (the natural hormone that helps you sleep) production. If you can't control the temperature of your environment, Simpson recommends dressing in layers so can remove or add heat when you need to.
Tip No. 5: Find a Dark, Quiet Space
Shut off that night light! Of course, you want it to be quiet so you aren't disturbed mid-dream, but pay attention to even the slightest bit of lighting in your room. "Keep it really dark and if you have a digital alarm clock, turn it the other way so you can't see the light," Simpson says. Uh, and forget about your phone, will you? "Do not look at your phone, it's the worst because it illuminates blue light." Try placing your phone on the opposite side of your space or outside of your bedroom.
Tip No. 6: To Thine Sleepwear Stay True
OK, so maybe you don't want to wear your PJs on the train, but consider wearing something that mimics the feel of them. "Loose-fitting clothing is best—don't wear super-tight, constricting items," Simpson says.
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Tip No. 7: Time Your Meals
Before we get to how much coffee you're drinking, you should think about the times of day you're eating. "Food is one of the biggest ways that we can regulate our circadian rhythms," Simpson says. "It's used for energy, so we're supposed to eat when we need energy: morning, afternoon, and then early evening." Find an eating schedule that works for you and to help curb jet lag, start eating in a schedule that accommodates the time change a little before you leave.
"Sleep is all about doing what's regular."
OK, now, about the coffee: "Stay away from consuming too much caffeine anytime after noon or 1pm," Simpson says. Instead, grab a glass of water. "Drink lots of water to stay hydrated, because dehydration can wake you up in the middle of the night." And if you like to enjoy a few cocktails every so often, keep count. "One or two drinks can be helpful to fall asleep, but drinking beyond that will disrupt your REM cycle, which is your most restorative sleep."
Tip No. 8: Push Through the Jet Lag
Here's a simple trick to helping you get back into your sleep regimen after a trip: sleep when it's dark and stay awake while it's light outside. "Your sleep clock is basically set to a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. schedule—that's just how nature works for us," Simpson says. "Don't go back to sleep for a few hours in the daytime and think you can just jump back to normal time. Push through it up front instead of dealing with it later." Rip the jet lag bandage, people.