We're really, really bad at sleeping. Seriously.
Think about it: How many times have we been tired but pushed through just one more episode of "House of Cards"? Or how often do we check our email right before crawling under the covers?
Luckily, cliches like "sleep is for the weak" or "I'll sleep when I'm dead" are on their way out -- but just because our attitudes about shuteye are shifting doesn't mean our habits are following suit. It's time we change that, and who better to give advice than those who have this whole sleeping thing down to a science?
Here are a few rules reliably well-rested people try to follow when they go to bed.
Take a hot shower or bath.
NBA superstar Kobe Bryant swears by this relaxing ritual before bed. Bryant, who went from getting four hours of sleep each night to the recommended eight, told The New York Times last year that prioritizing sleep has changed his life.
"You know the other major thing about sleep? It gives me more energy to spend time with my family and have fun with my kids," Bryant said. "As I got more rest, I could work and come home -- and become the human jungle gym again."
Wear actual pajamas.
Yoga pants are great (seriously) but try to keep their purpose limited to lunges and lounging. Have specific clothes (namely, pajamas) specifically designated for bedtime. This sends the sign that you're ready to log those Zzs.
"Far too many of us have given up on the distinction between what you wear during the day and what you wear to bed," HuffPost president and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington wrote in a 2010 sleep blog. "Slipping on the PJs is a signal to your body: time to shut down!"
Turn your bed into a haven.
Your bed is not Grand Central Terminal; it should only be used for its intended purposes and not as a place where you go in and out throughout the course of your day.
As actress Cameron Diaz details in her book, The Body Book, we'll sleep a lot better if we use our beds for just that -- sleep. "Try making your bed in the morning and removing dirty clothes, bags, your computer," Diaz and her team writes in a wellness blog dedicated to the project. "A bed is a sanctuary meant for rest, sleep and sex. Don't make it a catchall place that becomes a burden."
Create realistic limits.
Sometimes prioritizing sleep means putting your foot down. Give yourself a limit, whether that's a specific bedtime or a nightly routine you have before you snooze. That episode of "The Bachelor" will be there in the morning, we promise.
"I also learned that if I am going to keep to [a religious sleep schedule], it means learning that 'no' is a complete sentence," Huffington said at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival. "And it often means saying no to good things. But I don't like anymore the feeling of walking through my day like a zombie."
Set a sleep alarm.
Obviously we have to set alarms to wake us up (and hopefully they're analog ones) -- but what about trying one before you go to sleep? According to the stress management experts at meQuilibrium, this helps you prioritize bedtime in a whole new way.
Set one alarm to go off 30 minutes before you go to bed, then another for when it's time to kill the lights. The routine will prompt you to take some time to unwind before you hit the sack. The payoff? "You'll be doing yourself a favor by getting through the days without getting frazzled," they advised.
Don't go to bed hungry.
Got the grumbles? Do something about it before hitting the pillow and you'll find yourself reaching dreamland faster. Just make sure you're consuming the right sustenance.
"Going to bed hungry can keep you awake, so grab a small snack that's part protein, part complex carbs with no added sugar, caffeine, or anything spicy, which can block sleep," Lisa Medalie, PsyD, a behavioral sleep medicine specialist at the University of Chicago, told Men's Journal.
Write everything down.
Let go of your pre-bedtime worries by jotting them down, says Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project and author of The Way We're Working Isn't Working. "Write down what's on your mind -- especially unfinished to-do's and unresolved issues -- just before you go to bed," he wrote in Harvard Business Review. "If you leave items in your working memory, they'll make it harder to fall asleep, and you'll end up ruminating about them if you should wake up during the night."
Tap into your inner child.
Kids thrive on sleep -- and you should, too. Perhaps, in order to get the rest you deserve, you should start thinking like one.
As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg explains, putting sleep at the top of your to-do list -- like you do for your kids -- is only going to benefit you in the long run. "Once you have children, you realize that when they don't get enough sleep, they're a mess... When they get enough sleep, everything's great," Sandberg said at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "And then I realized I'm like that, too. I really do prioritize sleep and it's made a huge difference."
Two words: No phones.
This is probably one of the oldest rules in the book for our new digital age: Keep those phones and tablets far away from the bedroom. "Have a specific time at night when you regularly turn off your devices -- and gently escort them out of your bedroom," Huffington wrote last year. "Disconnecting from the digital world will help you reconnect to your wisdom, intuition and creativity."
That also goes for the morning. When you first rise, take some time for yourself and postpone checking those emails. You'll start the day on a much happier note.
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