Here's What's Probably Ruining Your Sleep—And How a Routine Can Fix It
According to the CDC, 70% of teens aren't getting enough of it. We wanted to know why, so we consulted The Sleep Ambassador Nancy Rothstein, MBA. On top of giving us the inside scoop on naps, she also clued us in to a major reason our sleep is suffering and gave us a solution to fix it.
Why You Need a Sleep Routine
We spend a third of our lives asleep, but we tend not to give that aspect of our lives as much thought as our waking activities.
"You prepare for school, or sports or a party, but do you actually prepare for sleep?" Nancy asks.
Having a dedicated sleep routine and consistently going to bed at the same every night—and getting up at the same time every morning—can do wonders for your sleep quality and your body clock, aka circadian rhythm, which loves consistency. Not only will you be less grumpy and moody, she says, but also better rested, more energetic and able to drive safely (you should discourage a tired friend from driving). You can potentially even do better in school.
A routine is also important because it can eliminate the one thing we can almost guarantee is wrecking your nighttime sleep.
(Gravity Falls via Disney Television Animation)
Put Down That Phone!
Is your phone screen the last thing you see before bed? That's a big no-no.
"We did not evolve to process the beautiful blue spectrum light that comes out of those devices," Nancy explains.
The blue light from phones (or TV screens and computers) sends a signal to our brains that messes with our sleep-wake signal by halting the release of a chemical called melatonin, which helps us sleep. But that's not all.
"On top of the chemical changes in your body, using a phone before bed also stimulates your brain," Nancy says. "Our brains are actually begging for a rest, which they never get if we look at phones when we first get up, all throughout the day and right up until bed. We need time to transition from a busy day to peaceful sleep."
(We Bare Bears via Cartoon Network Studios)
Experiment With a Routine
Nancy recommends an easy experiment that should totally change the way you sleep—but you might not like it if you're super attached to your phone.
"I know some people feel FOMO when they put away their phone, she says, "but maybe they should have a fear of missing out on sleep, instead."
The experiment is simple, but that doesn't mean it'll feel easy. For one week, set an alarm to go off a half hour before you go to bed every night. When the alarm goes off, it's time to start prepping for sleep. Begin by putting your phone all the way across the room, where you can't touch it. If your phone is your morning alarm, set it now and be done with it for the night!
"Try putting your phone away to have some you time," she says. "It's going to be challenging at first, but it's necessary because once you have your phone in your hand, there's no way you're going to stay off Instagram and Snapchat. If you prepare for sleep with a routine and put the phone away every night, it becomes a habit."
We know this will be tough, especially if you're used to having your phone on you 24/7, but it's important to familiarize yourself with real quiet time.
(Phineas and Ferb via Walt Disney Television Animation)
What Should We Do Before Bed?
With the TV and computer also off-limits, what do you even do during that chunk of time before sleep? Nancy says it's a great idea to take a shower or bath.
"I'm quoted in an article in Glamour magazine about showering, which addresses whether it's better to shower at night or in the morning from sleep, skin and hair perspectives," Nancy says. "For one, I think it's great to shower before bed because you want to get in bed clean, but it's also a great calming experience."
A shower before bed also raises the body temperature, so that when you get back in bed and your body temperature lowers, it can become easier to sleep because you're more relaxed.
Once you're done with your shower, it can be a good idea to read a magazine or book, but not one that will engage you too much, and not one you're reading for school unless it's relaxing reading for you.
If you find yourself tossing and turning, practice some mindfulness techniques or focus on your breath to quiet your mind. Whatever you do, Nancy says, do not look at your clock and don't get out of bed to retrieve your cell phone, tempting though it may be. This will activate your brain and make it more difficult to fall asleep or get back to sleep.
"Also, don't use the snooze button in the morning," she says. "That's just wasted sleep. That's why you want to put the phone across the room, forcing you to get out of bed. Once you're out of bed, make the bed and don't get back in."
It's possible to start feeling the benefits of sticking to your new routine after just a few nights. After a week of this, try starting your nighttime routine a full hour before bed for maximum benefits. According to Nancy, a routine is the secret to feeling better as well as thinking better.
If you aren't getting enough sleep, click HERE for our interview with Nancy to find out all about the power of naps.