Sleep.  I often feel like I spend more time talking about sleep than actually asleep.

I can’t sleep.
I need more sleep.
I’m just going to take a quick nap.
I didn’t sleep last night.
I need to go to bed.
I tossed and turned all night.
I need to catch up my sleep this weekend.

In college I wore my lack of sleep like a badge of honor.  It was routine for me to pull all-nighters and finals week was a marathon awake-a-thon for me.  Clearly I was young and foolish and these days I feel more like this:

I’ve been on a lifelong quest to get more sleep.  Here are my tried and true tips for improving your sleep:

1.  Establish a routine.  I used to think that I could “catch-up” on my sleep on the weekends.  This doesn’t work.  It just doesn’t.  If you missed sleep last night, it’s gone and you can’t get it back tonight or this weekend.  One of the best things that you can do for your sleep is to establish a routine.  As much as possible, aim to wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day.  Yes, even the weekends!

2.  Step away from your electronics.
 (Full disclosure – I struggle with this one.)  You are over-stimulating your mind when you are tweeting, checking your email, or blogging at night!  Some studies are also suggesting that the brightness from your iPad decreases your natural melatonin.  I’ll be honest…I have a television in the bedroom and you’ll find my iPhone, iPad and Kindle on my nightstand – along with a stack of books I want to read.  This one is a work in progress for me but I will say that when I am successful, I fall asleep faster.

3.  Eat light at night.  Dinner should be your lightest meal of the day and you want to aim to eat at least 3 hours before bed.  It’s important that you give your body time to properly digest dinner or evening snacks before you go to sleep.  If you get home late, opt for steamed vegetables or a smoothie for easily digestible nutrition.

4.  Drink your water during the day.
 I try to cut off liquids after work.  I used to get home from work and realize that I hadn’t had any water all day and chug massive amounts of water all night.  Bad idea.  I’d wake up several times throughout the night.  Start drinking water as soon as the alarm goes off in the morning and stop at dinnertime.  I’m a fan of tea after dinner but I’m trying to limit that too and not have any liquids after 8:00pm.

5.  Cut out caffeine…or seriously limit it!
 I know, I know.  This one is a killer.  Honestly, though, my sleep has improved dramatically since I gave up coffee.  I wake up feeling more alert and feel tired at night.  If you do drink coffee, don’t have any after lunch.  Suffering from the afternoon slump?  Instead of reaching for your 3:00pm cup of coffee, drink a full glass of water or green juice and have a small handful of nuts.

6.  Incorporate gentle stretches before bed.
 You know how I feel about yoga.  I love practicing gentle yoga after work and find that it eases me into a relaxed state and perfectly prepares me for my bedtime meditation.  Regular exercise of any kind will improve your sleep but you might want to add in gentle yoga poses, if you are having trouble sleeping.

7.  Meditate.  I love to meditate right before bed.  Even if you simply get in bed and focus on your breathing for a few minutes.  My go-to guided meditation is Gabrielle Bernstein’s sleeping meditation.  You can listen below and download the free podcast from iTunes.

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