Hispanic woman yawning

Sleep rituals. When counting sheep isn’t enough.

Are you tired of waking up tired? You’re not alone. More than one-third of American adults do not get enough sleep. Many times, the culprit is an easy fix—it’s your sleep ritual.

What’s a sleep ritual?

A sleep ritual is the routine of things you do before going to sleep. Staying up until 1 a.m. is not a helpful way to provide healthy, body-resting sleep. Neither is watching TV or scrolling through your smartphone or tablet just before you head to bed—or worse, while you are in bed.

What is a typical, healthy, sleep pattern?

The amount of sleep you need depends upon your age. Most healthy adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep. If you think you thrive on less than seven hours, you may want to reconsider.

Adequate sleep supports your physical, mental, and emotional health – as well as other areas. For instance, the health benefits of quality sleep include better skin and weight loss! In addition to feeling tired and constantly yawning, sleep deprivation can cause symptoms such as forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and moodiness. Over time, this can lead to complications with diabetes, depression, lowered immunity, heart problems, and obesity.

When you sleep, your body resets, recovers, and rebuilds itself through four stages: dozing off, light, deep sleep, and REM sleep. Each night, you will bounce between stages as a cycle lasts about 90 minutes.

Ways to reset your sleep pattern through a better sleep ritual

  • Make it a habit to go to bed at the same time every night as much as possible. There will always be occasions when something unexpected comes up, but binge-watching your favorite series until the wee hours will leave you bleary-eyed and exhausted if you have to work at 8 a.m.
  • Dim the lights! An hour before you go to bed, dim the lights, and turn off all screens. Yes, that means no last-minute texting, unless you have a teenager you need to check on.
  • If you have to make frequent bathroom trips in the middle of the night, reduce your water intake and other liquids before turning in.
  • Install room-darkening curtains and keep the bedroom at a cool temperature. Studies show that the best temperature range for good sleep is between 60 and 65 degrees.
  • As much as you love your kids and pets, keep them in their own beds so you can sleep well in yours.
  • If you tend to stew over problems after going to bed, keep a pen and paper on your bedside table. If you write down the thoughts that keep you awake, you won’t forget them, making it easier to let your brain go to sleep.
  • Try running a small bedside fan on low so the soothing white noise can lull you to sleep. In addition, white noise can help block disruptive sounds that affect the duration and quality of sleep during the night.

It may take some time for your body to adjust to the changes to your sleep ritual but stay with it. Your sleep and your health will thank you.

If you’re concerned that you may have sleep apnea—a sleep condition that can seriously affect your health or even increase the chance of stroke—discuss your symptoms with your doctor and ask about prescribing a sleep study.