Last week’s blog post covered just how critical it is for us to get enough sleep each night – even mild sleep deprivation can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, heart attacks and strokes, and several types of cancer. This week, we’re following up with some practical ways to approach your lifestyle, diet, and bedroom in order to get better sleep. We’ll wrap up the topic of sleep next week with a blog post on prescription, over-the-counter, and all-natural sleep aids.
1. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule
Try to go to bed at wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Your body’s internal clock will begin to recognize and respond to that timing, leading to higher quality sleep.
2. Establish a nighttime routine
Use a nightly routine to tell your body and brain it’s time to wind down for bed. This routine could include activities like taking a shower or bath, brushing your teeth, reading a book, or turning all the lights off in your home.
3. If you can't fall asleep, get out of bed
It may take some time for your body to become used to a consistent bedtime. Initially, if you’re having trouble falling asleep for more than 20 minutes, try getting out of bed. Staying in bed in those moments can build up anxiety, keeping you up even more and/or resulting in a restless sleep. You’re better off leaving the bedroom and doing something else until you feel tired enough to go back to bed. Go for something relaxing and away from screens such as reading or meditating.
4. Exercise early in the day
Get your workout in at least three hours before bedtime. If you exercise earlier in the day, you’ll subsequently burn more energy throughout the day, setting your body up for higher quality sleep. It also ensures enough time for your heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature to come back to baseline before bed.
1. Avoid caffeine six hours before bedtime
It typically takes about 6 hours for caffeine to leave your system.
2. Limit fluid intake before bedtime
Start limiting the amount of fluids you take in about an hour before bed to avoid having to use the restroom in the middle of the night.
3. Limit alcohol consumption before bedtime
While a nightcap may make you drowsy, alcohol prevents your body from getting into the deepest form of sleep, called REM sleep. Furthermore, alcohol’s diuretic properties could cause you to wake up to use the restroom throughout the night.
4. Avoid large meals two hours before bedtime
After eating a large meal, a lot of the blood in your body rushes to your stomach and intestines to get to work digesting the meal. When this happens shortly before we go to sleep, there’s less blood flow in your brain which limits the amount of deep REM sleep.
Large meals, especially spicy and fatty foods, also require a lot more stomach acid for your body to break the food down. If you lay down too soon after eating, the stomach acid can cause issues such as acid reflux, heartburn, and erosion of the esophagus.
1. Limit bedroom activities to only sleep and sex
You’ll have an easier time falling asleep if your brain and body associates the bedroom solely as a place of rest instead of a place to work, hang out, etc.
2. Avoid screens in bed
Screens should especially be avoided in the bedroom and at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The light emitted from these devices send signals to your brain that interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you get to sleep naturally.
3. Keep your bedroom dark and cool
60-70°F will keep your body’s core temperature where it needs to be to get into REM sleep. Darkness serves as a signal for your brain to increase melatonin production, allowing for better sleep.
4. Don't watch the clock
If you have an alarm clock, try turning it away from your bed. Keeping tabs on what time it is when you’re trying to fall asleep can be a source of anxiety, keeping you up even more and/or resulting in a restless sleep.