March 23, 2020
Get the sleep you need
Tired of tossing and turning at night? These simple tips will help you sleep better and be more energetic and productive during the day.
4 tips for a better nights sleep
Tip 1 Do you have rhythm?
Circadian rhythm that is! Getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is one of the most important strategies for sleeping better. If you keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, you’ll feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times, even if you only alter your sleep schedule by an hour or two.
This means trying to sleep at the same time every day. This helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. Choose a bed time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock, that's a sign that you may need an earlier bedtime.
Avoid sleeping in—even on weekends. The more your weekend/weekday sleep schedules differ, the worse the weekend jet lag-like symptoms you’ll experience. If you need to make up for a late night, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping in. This allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm. Limit naps to 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon.
Tip 2 Control your exposure to light
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making you sleepy—and less when it’s light—making you more alert. However, many aspects of modern life can alter your body’s production of melatonin and shift your circadian rhythm.
During daylight hours:
Expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning. The closer to the time you get up, the better. Have your coffee outside, for example, or eat breakfast by a sunny window. The light on your face will help you wake up
Spend more time outside during daylight. Take your work breaks outside in sunlight, exercise outside, or walk your dog during the day instead of at night.
Let as much natural light into your home or work space as possible. Keep curtains and blinds open during the day, and try to move your desk closer to the window.
If necessary, use a light therapy box. This simulates sunshine and can be especially useful during short winter days.
During the night:
Avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime. The blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer, or TV is especially disruptive. You can minimize the impact by using devices with smaller screens, turning the brightness down, or using light-altering software such as f.lux.
Say no to late-night television. Not only does the light from a TV suppress melatonin, but many programs are stimulating rather than relaxing. Try listening to music or audio books instead.
Don’t read with back lit devices. Tablets that are back lit are more disruptive than e-readers that don’t have their own light source.
When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. Use heavy curtains or shades to block light from windows, or try a sleep mask. Also consider covering up electronics that emit light.
Keep the lights down if you get up during the night. If you need some light to move around safely, try installing a dim nightlight in the hall or bathroom or using a small flashlight.
This will make it easier for you to fall back to sleep.
Tip 3: Be active
People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel less sleepy during the day. Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep.
The more vigorously you exercise, the more powerful the sleep benefits. But even
light exercise—such as walking for just 10 minutes a day—improves sleep quality.
It can take several months of regular activity before you experience the full sleep-promoting effects. So be patient and focus on building an exercise habit that sticks.
For better sleep, time your exercise right exercise speeds up your metabolism, elevates body temperature, and stimulates hormones such as cortisol. This isn’t a problem if you’re exercising in the morning or afternoon, but too close to bed and it can interfere with sleep.
Try to finish moderate to vigorous workouts at least three hours before bedtime. If you’re still experiencing sleep difficulties, move your workouts even earlier. Relaxing, low-impact exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching in the evening can help promote sleep.
Tip 4: Be smart about what you eat and drink
our daytime eating habits play a role in how well you sleep, especially in the hours before bedtime.
Limit caffeine and nicotine. You might be surprised to know that caffeine can cause
sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it! Similarly, smoking is another stimulant that can disrupt your sleep, especially if you smoke close to bedtime.
Avoid big meals at night. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Spicy or acidic foods can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.
Avoid alcohol before bed. While a nightcap may help you relax, it interferes with your
sleep cycle once you’re out.
Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. Drinking lots of fluids may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night.
Cut back on sugary foods and refined carbs. Eating lots of sugar and refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, and pasta during the day can trigger wakefulness at night and pull you out of the deep, restorative stages of sleep.
Nighttime snacks help you sleep
For some people, a light snack before bed can help promote sleep. For others, eating before bed leads to indigestion and make sleeping more difficult. If you need a bedtime snack, try:
- Half a turkey sandwich
- A small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal
- Milk or yogurt
- A banana