The importance of getting a good night’s sleep cannot be stressed enough. It allows our body to build up the immune, nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems. Unfortunately, due to things like industrialization and artificial light, the last one-hundred years have ushered in dramatic alterations to human sleep habits. Despite the demands of the modern world, it is still possible to attain an optimum amount of sleep and reap the benefits it bestows upon the body and mind. Try these three simple tips to experience the glory that is a night of quality sleep.
Tip #1: Sync Up with Your Circadian Rhythm
Consistency is the key here. If you want to wake up every morning feeling refreshed and energized, it is crucial to keep a regular sleep schedule. In order to make sure you go to sleep and get up at the same time everyday, consider your lifestyle. Choose a time when you are normally tired to prevent tossing and turning. Eventually, you should be able to wake up naturally without an alarm. If you require an alarm clock to get up on time, try setting an earlier bedtime.
One way this consistency can be thrown off is by sleeping in during the weekends. Your internal clock is a sensitive mechanism, and even a couple of hours can disrupt it. Rather than sleeping late, try taking a midday nap- this strategy will even out your sleep debt without throwing off your natural sleep-wake rhythm. Naps, however, should be limited to between 15 and 20 minutes.
Lastly, if a big dinner leaves you unbearably drowsy, remember to fight the urge to sleep if it is not yet your set bedtime. Try doing something mildly stimulating, such as washing the dishes, to avoid nodding off.
Tip #2: Control Your Exposure to Light
Your brain secretes the hormone melatonin in varying amounts to control your sleep-wake cycle. When it’s dark, more is produced to make you sleepy. When it’s light, less is produced to keep you alert. Simple, right? Unfortunately, this intuitive process has gotten a lot more complicated in the modern world. Long days in the office away from natural light can make you sleepy. At the same time, exposure to LED lights and television screens can trick your body into thinking it should stay awake. Increasing contact with natural light by spending more time outside or keeping blinds and curtains open during the day will help keep your melatonin and sleep-wake cycle on track.
At night, it is important to limit your exposure to bright screens (TV, phone, tablet, computer). Try reducing the brightness of the screen if you absolutely have to use a device before bedtime. If you use an e-reader, invest in one that is lit from the front, as they are far less disruptive than backlit models. A good old-fashioned book would be the ideal option. When it is finally time for bed, remember that the darker the room is the better you will sleep.
Tip #3: Get Regular Exercise
Studies have shown that individuals who exercise on a regular basis get better sleep, and feel less tired during the day. Not only does it improve symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea, but it also increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. The more intense the exercise routine, the more powerful the sleep benefits. However, even something as minimal as a 10-minute walk can be beneficial. This is not a quick fix- it can take several months before experiencing the full sleep-enhancing effects. With this in mind, it is important to create a workout routine that works for you, and one that you can realistically stick to.
Be careful with this one as working out too close to bedtime can lead to sleep interference. Try to finish the workout at least 3 hours before you hit the hay. This should allow your body temperature to cool down to a level that is conducive for sleep.