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“I slept like a baby.”
Oh, how we all long to be able to say those words and mean it!
But for too many of us, sleep has become anything but a natural process. It’s something we have to fight for.
So many things conspire against us when it comes to sleeping well: a snoring partner (or our own snoring!), medications we’re taking and various medical conditions.
But the one that we can “unplug” from, the one that we don’t have to let ruin our sleep, is stress.
And the best way to do that, according to research? Treat yourself like a three-year-old.
Give yourself a toddler’s bedtime routine
Dr. Hasan Merali is a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Dr. Merali believes that the same principles that help anxious, overstimulated toddlers get the hours of sleep they need can also work for anxious, overstimulated adults. He also says there’s research to back that up.
If you’ve ever put a three-year-old to sleep, you know that you don’t ask them to go from the dinner table to the bed without some transitional activities.
For adults as well, routine is key to a good night’s sleep.
And according to Dr. Merali, there are four pillars of a good bedtime routine, whether you’re three or 43…
1. Set a fixed bedtime. Commit to going to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends. Respect your body’s natural rhythms. Some people are programmed to be in bed by 8:00, while others aren’t ready until 11.
2. Take a hot bath or shower. “A comprehensive study published in 2019 examined 13 different adult studies and found that scheduling a hot bath or shower 1-2 hours before a planned bedtime significantly shortened the time it took to go to sleep,” reports Dr. Merali.
Your body temperature naturally drops before sleep. A hot shower dilates your blood vessels and accelerates this process.
3. Apply lotion. Dr. Merali cites a study where 76 infants received a bedtime massage either with or without lotion, or no massage at all. “It was the infants that had a lotion massage that experienced longer periods of sleep,” he says.
You don’t have to have a masseuse or even a partner to experience this benefit. You can do it for yourself!
4. Engage in a quiet activity. Remember bedtime stories? Dr. Merali cites a large study with children that showed that “language-based bedtime routines were associated with longer nighttime sleep duration.” He says that adults, too, can reap this benefit.
More tricks for better sleep
Sleep loss and poor sleep are linked to a weakened immune system, risk of heart disease and stroke, and more. And, if you’re over 65, even one night of poor sleep can leave you more vulnerable to cancer.
Here are some things to add to your toolbox of ways to beat sleepless nights:
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For better sleep, borrow the bedtime routine of a toddler — Popular Science