Sleep is needed to reboot our body and keep us alert. We need at least seven hours a night to maintain cognitive performance. Since sleep is so important, here are a few ways to help you get that much needed shut eye.
- Keep a sleep schedule. This isn’t new but is important. Develop a pre-sleep routine, one that gets you ready to quiet down and get to bed. Then try to wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day.
- Assess the light in your sleep area and consider making it darker. The dark helps release melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. This naturally produced hormone doesn’t put you asleep but will help you quiet down so you can get to sleep. Your melatonin levels rise about 2 hours before bedtime, so dim the lights, stop looking at screens or be at least 6 feet away from a screen, and get exposure to daylight during the morning and afternoon. Regulating light and dark helps us sleep.
- Cool both the room and you down. A room temp of 65 to 68 is ideal for sleep. The lower temperature affects the melatonin and helps you fall asleep faster. And hot baths before bed can cool down your body core and make you fall asleep faster.
- Attend to what you are drinking. Caffeine and alcohol after 2 p.m. can be the source of sleep problems. Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors and blocks adenosine in the brain. This fools the brain to stay awake. Caffeine’s half-life is about five to seven hours, so avoid it late in the day for better sleep. Now with alcohol, sleep quality is affected. Alcohol interrupts sleep. It blocks REM and dream sleep too!
- If you wake up early, staying in bed doesn’t help. If you aren’t sleeping, get out bed. Go to another room and do something to relax yourself until you are tired. In other words, associate your bed with sleep.
- Relax both your mind and body. If you are having trouble with sleep, try deep breathing, reading, prayer and meditation or sleep music. You can also use progressive muscle relaxation –tense and relax each muscle from head to toe. In the process of relaxation, distract your mind from worry, as worry breeds insomnia.
- Look over the side effects for medications you may take. Certain medications interfere with sleep or cause sleepiness during the day. Medications for heart, blood pressure, inflammation, depression and others are among many that can keep you awake. Talk to your doctor if you are having sleep problems.
- Give up sleeping in on weekends. You may have done this in college, but as a life habit, it isn’t good for sleep. Sleeping in disrupts your body’s natural clock and can make you feel like you have jet lag. Try to keep your sleep schedule consistent and opt for a power nap during the day instead. Limit the nap to 15 to 20 minutes or you may not sleep that night.
By practicing these eight strategies, you’ll be well on your way to a better night’s sleep.