What You Do BEFORE Bed
What makes the most difference for your ability to sleep – and for your body’s ability to heal through deep sleep – is what you do BEFORE bed. Allowing yourself to follow natural rhythms helps you stop fighting against your own body, and you’ll get back the chance for true rest and rejuvenation.
Keep in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle
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.
Try to go to sleep and get up 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, you may need an earlier bedtime.
Avoid sleeping in—even on weekends. The more your weekend/weekday sleep schedules differ, the worse the jetlag-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.
Be smart about napping. While napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, napping can make things worse. Limit them to 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon.
Fight after-dinner drowsiness. If you get sleepy way before your bedtime, get off the couch and do something mildly stimulating, such as washing the dishes, calling a friend, or getting clothes ready for the next day. If you give in to the drowsiness, you may wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.
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.
Tips for keeping your sleep-wake cycle on track
During the day:
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 workspace 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.
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 backlit devices. Tablets that are backlit 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.
Wind down and clear your head
Do you find yourself unable to sleep or waking up night after night? Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well.
- If anxiety or chronic worrying dominates your thoughts at night, there are steps you can take to learn how to stop worrying and look at life from a more positive perspective. Even counting sheep is more productive than worrying at bedtime.
- If the stress of work, family, or school is keeping you awake, you may need help with stress management. By learning how to manage your time effectively, handle stress in a productive way, and maintain a calm, positive outlook, you’ll be able to sleep better at night.
- The more overstimulated your brain becomes during the day, the harder it can be slow down and unwind at night. During the day, many of us overstress our brains by constantly interrupting tasks to check our phones, emails, or social media. Try to set aside specific times for these things, and focus on one task at a time. When it comes to getting to sleep at night, your brain won’t be accustomed to seeking fresh stimulation and you’ll be better able to unwind.
Relaxation techniques for better sleep
Practicing relaxation techniques before bed is a great way to wind down, calm the mind, and prepare for sleep. Try:
Deep breathing. Close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths, making each breath even deeper than the last.
Progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Work your way up to the top of your head.
Visualizing a peaceful, restful place. Close your eyes and imagine a place that’s calming and peaceful. Concentrate on how relaxed this place makes you feel.
– via www.helpguide.org
Changing Your Nights To Change Your Mornings
Once you’ve made a few alterations to your daily routine – like getting extra natural light each day to increase your natural melatonin production – it’s time to examine what you do each night.
Set Your Bedroom Temperature
Body and bedroom temperature can also profoundly impact sleep quality.
As you may have experienced during the summer or when on vacation, it can be very hard to get a good night’s sleep when it’s too warm.
One study found that bedroom temperature affected sleep quality even more than external noise.
Other studies show that increased body and bedroom temperature can decrease sleep quality and increase wakefulness.
Around 70°F, or 20°C, seems to be a comfortable temperature for most people, although it always depends on your preferences and what you’re used to.
Bottom Line: Test different temperatures to find out which is most comfortable for you. Around 70°F/20°C seems comfortable for most people.
Get a Comfortable Bed, Mattress and Pillow
Some people wonder why they always sleep better in a hotel.
Well, apart from the relaxing environment, bed quality can also have an effect.
One study looked at the benefits of a new mattress for 28 days. They found it reduced back pain by 57%, shoulder pain by 60%, back stiffness by 59% and improved sleep quality by 60%.
Other studies also found that new bedding can enhance sleep. Additionally, poor-quality bedding can lead to increased lower-back pain.
The best mattress and bedding is extremely subjective. If you are upgrading your bedding, base your choice on personal preference.
It is recommended that you upgrade your bedding at least every 5–8 years.
If you haven’t replaced your mattress or bedding for several years, this can be a very quick (although possibly expensive) fix.
Bottom Line: Research shows that your bed, mattress and pillow can greatly impact sleep quality and joint or back pain. Try to buy a high-quality mattress and bedding every 5–8 years.
– via Authority Nutrition
How have you been sleeping?