“First and foremost we need to make sleep a priority,” says sleep expert Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM. “We always recommend a good diet and exercise to everyone, but along the same lines we recommend proper sleep as well.”
With all the demands on our time every day, you might put a good night’s rest at the bottom of your priority list. But Dr. Drerup says we need to schedule adequate time for sleep.
“It’s very easy to stay up late and burn the candle at both ends,” she says. “However, when you do that, you quickly run into a problem of dealing with sleep deprivation.”
Wake up at the same time every day, including weekends or days off. Waking at the same time every day actually helps you sleep better at night. A fixed wake time helps build a strong desire for sleep throughout wakefulness. This sleep drive gradually builds, and shortening it by sleeping in will make it harder to fall asleep the next night. Sleeping in on the weekend makes it much more difficult to wake up earlier on Monday morning.
It’s also important to do some relaxing activity, recommends Dr. Drerup, like taking a warm bath or reading a book before bedtime. By making these activities part of your bedtime ritual, you can train yourself to associate these activities with sleep. This association will help you move more easily into slumber.
Electronic devices keep your mind humming — and far from the relaxed state you need to achieve before bedtime. Dr. Drerup advises it’s a good idea to put away devices like smart phones and tablets at least one hour before bedtime.
“The minute you look at that time it’s not just looking at one number,” Dr. Drerup says. “You start mental calculations, you think about how long it’s been since you’ve been in bed and what you have to do the next day. And before you know it, a long time has passed and that cuts into your sleep time.”
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