We all know we need to get plenty of sleep in order to function at our best. Inadequate rest impacts every area of our life—both in the present and, a new study suggests, in the future. The results of a 25-year study of nearly 8,000 people, all of whom were around 50 when the study began, have recently been published. The research suggests that people who do not get enough sleep during their 50s and 60s are at a higher risk of developing dementia.
That’s a pretty strong incentive to get enough sleep each night. And of course, there are plenty of other more immediate incentives as well. Being well-rested is good for our physical and mental health and makes it more likely that we will be more successful in school, at work, in relationships, and—for those who have battled a substance use disorder—in recovery.
But it is one thing to know that sleep is important and it is quite another to get the sleep we need on a regular basis. Sometimes the demands of day-to-day life keep us awake. For example, we might work late into the night. Or we might toss and turn worrying about work late into the night. Or both.
It might feel as though all of that is out of our control, but the fact is there are a number of things you can do to make it more likely you can get an appropriate amount of sleep every night.
Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Sleep
Let’s start with some things you can do in the evening that can lead to more restful sleep.
The first item might well remind you of your childhood: Set a bedtime for yourself. And then stick to it.
When we’re kids, our bedtime is imposed on us—and we can’t wait for the day when no one can tell us when to go to bed. But here’s the thing: a regular bedtime coupled with a regular waking time can significantly increase the quality of your rest. Your body gets into the habit of understanding when it is time for you to rest. And in the best cases, these times for going to bed and getting up would apply seven days a week. Consistency is an important part of improving and sustaining your sleep patterns.
The next thing on your agenda should be making sure that your sleeping space is comfortable, cool, and uncluttered. Block out any light that might intrude (like a streetlight shining through your window, for example) and also find a way to eliminate or lessen any distracting sounds. A white noise machine, soft music, or even earplugs can help.
Oh, and if you have a partner who snores, insist they do something about that, starting with a conversation with a doctor. Doing so will improve the quality of sleep for both of you—and may provide significant health benefits to the snorer in question. If you are the snorer, talk with your doctor right away. Addressing sleep apnea or other problems will definitely help you get better rest.
Now that you have a bedtime set and the environment set up, you should also create a routine that gets your body and mind ready for sleep. Ideally, you would stop interacting with your screens an hour or two before bed. You might spend that time doing some combination of relaxing activities—taking a warm bath, working a jigsaw or crossword puzzle, reading, listening to soft music, enjoying a warm (caffeine-free) beverage, writing in a journal, doing some light stretching, meditating—that signal to your body and brain that it is almost time for sleep.
That list might seem pretty complete, but it turns out that there are also several things you can do during the day to improve the likelihood of getting good rest at night.
- Lessen (or eliminate) the amount of caffeine you take in each day
- Make good nutritional choices that won’t undermine your sleep
- Get some natural sunlight every day to keep your circadian rhythms working for you
- Get some exercise—just not too close to bedtime
- Set some boundaries so that your obligations don’t keep you working late
- Consider mindfulness meditation, which can help you stay present in the moment rather than ruminating about the past or worrying about the future
These daytime strategies are excellent supports for your nighttime routine.
A Reminder of Why This is Important for Those in Recovery
Remember that good mental health and ongoing sobriety are intertwined. And getting enough rest is an excellent way to boost your mental health and, by extension, support your ongoing recovery. Rest assured that your recovery journey will be smoother if you are sleeping well.
We Are Tireless When It Comes to Helping You
At French Creek Recovery Center, we are ready to help you put the nightmare of drugs and alcohol behind you. With a commitment to personalized care, our team of compassionate experts will see you through detox and rehab while providing the strategies and resources you will need to begin your recovery with confidence. We can also help address co-occurring mental health disorders—which may be making it difficult to sleep—so that you are well-equipped to face the challenges of maintaining your sobriety. We won’t rest until we have helped you overcome your substance use disorder and reclaim your life.