We all love that feeling, you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on your day. Unfortunately most people only feel this every great once in awhile, but you really can get that feeling everyday! In the last post we talked about how a lack of sleep can keep you from being the healthiest version of yourself, now its time to talk about what you can do to get the best night of sleep ever.
- Turn Off Your Devices – Computers, tablets, smartphones and TV’s all emit artificial blue lights that produce daytime hormones like cortisol and limit your bodies natural circadian rhythms. A study done at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that nighttime IPad readers took longer to fall asleep, felt less sleepy at night, and had shorter Rem cycles compared to test subjects reading a paperback book. The IPad readers also had a decreased level of melatonin and were less sleepy before bedtime and woke up sleepier and less alert after 8 hours of sleep. Turn off the devices at least 2 hours before bed, when this isn’t possible consider wearing a blue light blocker like these.
- Turn the temp down– Have you ever noticed that you start to feel colder as you get closer to bed time? Your body naturally drops its temperature as the evening wears on, dropping to its lowest levels, usually about 4 hours after you fall asleep. This is one reason it is believed dropping your homes temperature helps to mimic your bodies natural cycles. Most researercher believe that having your bedroom be between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for sleep. Temperatures above 75 degrees and below 54 degrees can disrupt your sleep. So if you want to fall asleep more quickly, and stay asleep longer keep it cool.
- Bedtime, even for adults– We all know that a consistent bedtime for kids helps them to have a restful night of sleep. Did you ever think about how this could benefit you as well? Having a consistent bed time and wake up time each day helps your body to be ready for and anticipate sleep. For most it is best to work backwards, that is pick your consistent wake up time and count back 7-8 hours to reach your consistent bed time. Don’t be tempted to sleep in on the weekends this only throws your sleep cycle off further. Keep a consistent schedule everyday.
- Don’t be Afraid of the Dark – Winter can be tough, with the sun setting earlier your body naturally wants to go to bed earlier. Studies have shown that exposure to room light during normal sleep hours suppresses melatonin levels by more than 50%. This light can be from any source, all the lights outside of your bedroom windows, that alarm clock next to your bed, or that annoying light that some device in your room is giving off. First get some blackout curtains, I can tell you from first hand experience this one little thing alone will help you sleep like a champ. Don’t be afraid to get them for your kids too! You will be amazed how much longer and deeper they sleep. If you must do a nightlight for them, try to find an orange or red light. Try dimming your lights for a good hour before bedtime as well and of course refer back to number 1.
- Avoid Caffeine and alcohol – Having a curfew for both caffeine and alcohol can drastically increase your ability to get a good night sleep. Caffeine half-life varies widely between people, however the general rule of thumb is 5 to 6 hours. This basically means that the caffeine is still affecting your body for this time after and may stop you from falling asleep. We have several in our family that can’t have any caffeine after lunch time, not even the caffeine in chocolate! Be aware of your personal caffeine tolerance and make a curfew. Alcohol has the opposite affect it helps most people fall asleep quicker but it reduces your REM sleep. “Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night” says Irshaad Ibrahim the medical director at the Sleep Center in the UK. Consider limiting your drinks to 2-3 hours before bed so that it is out of your system.
- Have a routine- Again this is something we do for our children, perhaps they have a bath, get in their pj’s, brush their teeth, you read them a story and put them to bed. This consistent routine helps signal to their little bodies its time for bed and helps them to fall asleep more quickly. The same is true for us as adults. It doesn’t need to be a long routine it can take only 10-15 minutes, but by making a routine out of it your body will come to expect sleep. In our home we usually have a cup of tea, talk for a few minutes, read for a few minutes, brush our teeth and out we go. Look for a routine that works best for you, the trick is to just be consistent.
- Get moving –Studies have been done that show radical sleep quality in insomnia sufferers when they added a consistent exercise routine. In fact one study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found a 55 percent improvement in how quickly they fell asleep, 30 percent decrease in total wake time, an 18 percent increase and total sleep time and a 13 percent increase in sleep quality. All of this from adding a consistent exercise routine!
Looking for more great tips on how to get a great sleep everyday, I highly recommend the book Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson. As he jokes on his podcast this book should be given to people at birth. Sleep is something every person needs, yet very few ever talk about their struggles with it or seeks help when there is an issue. It’s not normal or healthy to neglect our sleep. Shawn gives 21 strategies to help you sleep smarter, I can personally attest to how much it has helped my husband and myself to sleep smarter. As of this writing the kindle version is only $1.99!