I work out every day, have seriously reduced my sugar intake, rarely drink, and never, ever smoke. And yet, according to Arianna Huffington, my health is compromised because I’m committing the greatest wellness sin of all: I don’t get enough sleep.
Like most people, I have a demanding job (this website can’t update itself!), a thriving social life, and an irrational need to reload my Twitter feed every, oh, 20 minutes—which means that if I’m running short on time, a full night’s rest is usually the first to go. That’s too bad because, according to Huffington—co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post and amateur sleep sleuth-turned-author of the new book The Sleep Revolution—adults need seven to nine hours a night to avoid potential disaster. Oops.
“We have this collective delusion that sleep is optional, and that the busier we get and the more important we are, the more necessary it is for us to forgo sleep,” says Huffington. “The very latest science makes it very clear that sleep is a non-negotiable part of our health, our productivity, and our happiness.”
She details that science thoroughly in the book (fun fact: research has found that not getting enough shut-eye effects everything from stress levels to weight management to even how we give birth), but don’t let her words—or the stat that we should all cut caffeine intake after 2 p.m.—scare you. Huffington is all about equipping readers to make easy, not-intimidating changes to their ZZZs habits.
“Once [people] look at the evidence and begin to take micro-steps, how they feel is going to be so transformed that they’re going to be so much more effective at getting things done, being productive, being creative—there will really be no contest,” she says.
Even if you’ve got a boss who insists on emailing you at 10 p.m. every night, you can take baby steps toward better, deeper, sweeter shut-eye.
Don’t hit the snooze button: Here are Arianna Huffington’s 5 tips for getting into a better sleep cycle.
Ease on down the (bedtime) road
You wouldn’t go straight from inhaling a veggie burger to doing set after set of burpees at boot camp—and the same goes for sending out that last work email of the night before heading straight to bed. “We need a transition,” exhorts Huffington. “The same way we transition children [to bedtime] by giving them a bath and telling them a story, we need to do that to ourselves.” Whether it’s taking a relaxing shower or picking up a book, find what will help move your body away from its work phase and into its rest phase. And no, Netflix doesn’t count. (Sorry!)
Seriously, put down the phone
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Cellphones are an enemy of the Sandman. Huffington recommends that you remove all devices from the bedroom at least five minutes before you plan on going to sleep (although she personally strives for 30). “I turn off my devices and charge them outside my room,” she notes. Your phone will still be there when you wake up, promise.
Flirt your way to sleep
According to Huffington, “The problem is we see sleep as the enemy, instead of rekindling the romance with sleep and recognizing its value.” So go on, put down the phone, take a break from swiping on Tinder, and instead focus on how you can make ZZZs feel a little…XXX. “I have a bath with flickering candles and Epsom salts, I wear special PJs—not the same ones I wear to the gym—and I have physical books that don’t have anything to do with work,” notes Huffington. And honestly, aren’t you ready to move beyond the “it’s complicated” phase of this relationship?
Timing is everything—especially when it comes to food and drink
Some foods are natural sleep enhancers (also: dinners full of fiber and low on sugar are crucial if you want to optimize your shut-eye), but Huffington does warn that snacking too close to bedtime can disrupt the body. “Allow time between eating or having a drink and sleeping,” she says, noting that scientists recommend between two and three hours. What you can enjoy right before you hit the hay? “Having something soothing, like lavender or chamomile tea, is great,” Huffington suggests.
Brighter isn’t better
Already made a habit out of turning off your phone and keeping devices out of the bedroom? You can take it a step further by enhancing your room so that it truly is a sleep sanctuary. “Move to things like making your bedroom completely dark,” suggests Huffington, adding that adjusting the temperature is also key. She cites a French study that found the ideal sleeping temperature to be between 60 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider your thermostat warned.
Find yourself staring at the ceiling at night? Here are more sleep tips—plus all-natural insomnia cures. And if you’re already clocking in eight hours a night, here’s how you can enhance your shut-eye with some serious detoxing.