Adequate sleep plays a vital role in our lives, both in the short term and throughout our lives. Perhaps more than we know. Getting enough quality sleep protects mental health, physical health, quality of life, and even safety.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “An estimated 35 percent of U.S. adults report less than seven hours of sleep during a typical 24 hour period. Sleepiness resulting from insufficient sleep, irregular sleep schedules, or poor quality sleep is a cause of motor vehicle crashes, occupational errors with hazardous outcomes, and difficulty performing daily tasks.”
They also estimate that 15-20 percent of adults suffering sleep deprivation, are more likely “to suffer from chronic disorders including depression, substance abuse, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and all-cause mortality. Resilience to stress, emotional regulation, and inter-personal relationships are impaired by sleep deficiency. Recent findings suggest that investing in sleep health contributes to maintaining brain health, and ultimately protecting cognitive functions necessary for aging-in-place. Recognizing and addressing sleep health issues presents opportunities for enhancing public health, and improving the well-being of all people.”
It’s more than just determining to go to bed early, make up for all those late nights or nights you’ve laid awake staring at the ceiling. Sometimes, your determination alone won’t work. The body is a mysterious and finely tuned instrument. It requires precision, it requires some forethought… it requires relaxation. And that requires a routine.
Sleep doctors at Harvard Medical School’s Sleep Division recommend a variety of measures to help adults and children achieve adequate sleep. In general, all of these approaches are intended to help with relaxation as the desired sleep time approaches, to maintain a comfortable sleep environment, and to encourage a healthful balance of nutrition and exercise. Their recommendations include:
- maintaining a regular sleep-wake schedule
- avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep
- making your bedroom a comfortable sleep environment
- establishing a calming pre-sleep routine
- going to sleep when you’re truly tired
- not watching the clock at night
- using light to your advantage by exposing yourself to light during the day and limiting light exposure in the evening
- not napping too close to your regular bedtime
- eating and drinking enough—but not too much or too soon before bedtime
- exercising regularly—but not too soon before bedtime
To inspire you, here are some ideas for your own…
Bedtime Stories: Rituals for Relaxation
A luxurious bath, a good read, and a cup of chamomile tea have long been praised as soothing preludes to the perfect slumber. Sacred are the rituals for retiring each evening—the quiet ceremonies that nurture our circadian rhythms are almost as blissful as a good night’s sleep.1. A bed piled high with lofty pillows and layered in luxury often paves the way to a journey into dreamland. Choose from silky sateens, percales, and piqués for exceptional sheeting that is soft, crisp, and cool to the touch. Embroidered with heirloom-quality monograms and made from fine Irish linen and Egyptian cotton, this boutique bedding is produced by some of the most esteemed weaving mills in the world. Mix separates in blue and white for a fresh summer update. 2. A cup of chamomile tea is a soothing prelude to the perfect slumber. 3. Quiet activities enjoyed in solitude, such as reading or writing, have a calming effect that often invites slumber. Pair these leisurely pursuits with a cup of hot tea to relax both mind and body. An antique mahogany writing slope embellished with mother-of-pearl inlay features a leather top and several compartments to hold all the necessities. 4. To create a cozy atmosphere of elegance and refinement, simple creature comforts should be kept bedside for ease of use. Essentials include a small water carafe with drinking glass, a well-dressed bolster pillow, and a leather-bound anthology of classic literature. 5. Other sleep-inducing accompaniments include a monogrammed blue-and-white seersucker bathrobe, as well as lingerie drawers lined with scented paper and topped with stacks of lavender-filled sachets. 6. Render a still life of peaceful beauty by bringing fresh flowers to the bedroom. A deep layering of pillows provides gentle comfort in a sumptuous nest of color, pattern, and texture. Solid hues, blue stripes, and monogram-enhanced designs merge harmoniously with neutral linen Euro shams and a “petaled” white-rosette accent cushion. For quick warmth, drape blankets and throws of cashmere, mohair, or cable-knit cotton at the foot of the bed.
Photography Marcy Black Simpson
Styling Mary Leigh Fitts