Why can’t we sleep and how do we fix it?
A big part of the problem, media mogul Ariana Huffington writes in her new book, “Sleep Revolution,” centres on and around our increased use of screens.
This is especially a problem at night, when our crisply-lit smartphones, tablets, and laptops keep our eyes and brains on high alert — making it tough to relax and robbing us of the long and peaceful slumber we need to be productive during the day.
Huffington’s solution? Use the evening around bedtime to gradually disconnect.
We recently talked to Keck School of Medicine professor of clinical medicine and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Raj Dasgupta to see how her regimen aligns with what we know about the science of sleep.
Turns out that many of the things Huffington suggests line up with a practice sleep scientists advocate using called “sleep hygiene,” a broader set of healthy behaviours designed to prepare our bodies for a night of rest.
Here’s how it works:
1. Have a sleep ritual
In her book and in interviews, Huffington has spoken about the importance of carving out a period of transition between the state of being wakeful and alert and being calm and ready for sleep.
“My own ritual,” Huffington recently told Access Hollywood, “involves taking a hot bath with candles because I love rekindling the romance with sleep.”
This practice is an important component of sleep hygiene because it helps tell our bodies that we’re getting ready for rest.
“When you’re going to bed, you want to do things that are relaxing, like reading a book,” said Dasgupta. “You want to gradually transition into sleep.”
2. Clear away distractions
Huffington said she also removes all electronic devices — tablets, phones, computers — from her bedroom so as to avoid attention-grabbing things like email, the news, or social media.
This is another classic sleep hygiene approach. “At bedtime, you want to be at peace,” Dasgupta said. “Things that will probably make you feel not at-peace include the news.”
While Huffington writes that she turns off all her devices 30 minutes before bedtime, some experts suggest a slightly larger device-free window of roughly an hour before bed.
3. Bring the day to a close
If you struggle at night with feeling like you just didn’t finish everything on your to-do list, it might be helpful to do something at bedtime that tells your brain and body that the day is truly over.
Huffington says before getting into bed, she uses a journal to jot down three things she’s grateful for. Since it involves a classic pen-and-paper approach, this would easily fall into both of the categories above. And it also reflects the idea of positive psychology, a theory that focusing on the good aspects of one’s day can help you feel happier and more satisfied.
Don’t take our word for it — try it yourself tonight.
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