A bad night of sleep can throw you off for an entire day, maybe more. A few days of restless nights can affect you for much longer than you think. Sleep deprivation, usually meaning that you’re getting under a recommended 7 hours of sleep a night, can affect your mood, short term memory, appetite, and even your balance. More than that? It’s just incredibly frustrating. When you get into a pattern of bad sleep the fear of another bad night can cause anxiety and, ironically, make the next time even harder to fall asleep. 

If you’ve had one bad night of sleeping, try to get ahead of the pattern. The day after a sleepless night try to avoid caffeine after 2 pm, drink a lot of water throughout the day and stop before about an hour before you go to sleep, take a few fifteen minute walks throughout the day, and take a long hot shower or bath before bed. All of these can help ensure that you get your body ready for sleep after a night when it seemed out of your reach. But if you’ve tried all of these ideas and are still having trouble, try creating a sleeping ritual.

Deep Breathing

We don’t always have time for a full round of meditation. As great and refreshed as you feel after a good thirty minutes centering yourself, there just isn’t always time. So try doing a few deep breathing techniques to help you calm throughout the day, it’s easy and will have an immediate effect! Find a quiet place (if you can), close your eyes, and put one hand lightly on your chest. Breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath in your body for seven seconds, and release for eight seconds. You can do this a few times in a row or just once, depending on how much time you have.

Exercises like this basically mimic the way that your body naturally breathes when you are in a relaxed state, almost tricking your brain and body into a sense of calm. When your body is relaxed, your blood pressure lowers, you get more oxygen to your brain, and reduce muscle tension. Try this technique twice during the day and once before going to bed.

Basic Stretches

Much like meditation, exercise can be a helpful but elusive tool when trying to juggle work and family life. The benefits of it are clear but finding an hour or two, once you factor in travel and prep, to hit the gym can be daunting. When it comes to your overall health and finding a good sleeping balance, just fifteen minutes a day can make a big difference.

Sun Salutation

  • Don’t let the name fool you, this isn’t exclusively a stretch for the morning!
    • Stand up straight, feet next to one another, with hands in a prayer position at chest
    • Bring hands up above your head, separating so they are parallel above your head
    • Take a deep breath in and arch your back backward while reaching your arms behind you in a semi-circle
    • Exhale and bring your arms in front of you, bending at the waist and reaching your arms to the floor
    • Breathe in deep and bring yourself back to the standing position

Wide Leg Forward

  • When you first start out remember not to overextend! Each time you do this stretch you will be able to bend a little bit more into it. So start slow and go as far as you can without hurting yourself.
    • Stand with your feet planted and take a deep breath in while extending your right leg so you have a wide stance
    • Breathe in deeply and look up towards the ceiling
    • Exhale and bend from the waist and reach down to the floor
    • If you feel comfortable, reach your arms behind your back and clasp your hands. From here you can try and bend into a deeper stretch
    • Breathe in and unroll from the stretch until you are standing and pull your feet back together

The Wall Crawler

  • Is there any better exercise than the one you can do while laying down? Not in my book.
    • Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
    • Lift your feet so they are perpendicular to the floor and almost touching the wall
    • Pull your knees close to your chest in whatever position is comfortable for your legs, wrapping your arms around your shins or ankles
    • Rock slowly from side to side and take long, slow breaths
    • Extend your legs and press your feet on the floor, bent at the knees
    • Scoot towards the wall and lift your legs so that your body is in an L shape with your legs against the wall and your back flat on the floor
    • From here practice the deep breathing exercise about two times, with both hands on your stomach so that you can feel the breath through your body

Unplug & Unwind

This, in my opinion, is actually the toughest part of the routine. When you’re ready for bed, keep your screens off. Studies show that treating your bed as just a place for sleeping will help you subconsciously relax and prepare to get some rest. If you normally spend about an hour on your iPad once you crawl into bed, try replacing that hour with another routine. Make a cup of tea, and grab a book or magazine to read while you unwind. If you’re in a period of sleeplessness, try sticking with a glossy magazine instead of a book or something that will require more attention. The goal is to treat sleep not as your enemy but as an eventuality and avoid things that might distract from your getting a solid night of zzz’s.