When it’s 4:00 AM and you are wide awake, it may seem there is nothing that will help you fall back asleep. Your day hasn't begun and it's already ruined right?
However, the truth is, you have more control over your quality of sleep than you realize. There are similarities between how you feel during the day and how you will sleep at night. In order to make sure that you are sleeping better, take a look at what goes on during your daily routines. There may be some unhealthy habits and lifestyle choices that have you tossing and turning at night. We've all experienced firsthand that our sleep directly affects our overall well-being, mentally and physically. When we don’t get enough sleep, it can take a toll on our daytime energy levels, productivity, emotional balance, and even our weight. We've gathered together a few tips that you can experiment with to help figure out which ones will work best for you. As you make some simple, yet important, changes in your daytime and bedtime routines, it will have a profound impact on the quality of sleep that you'll get. Improving your quality of sleep will keep you mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and help you have sustaining energy all day. Ready to catch some more Zzz’s?
Tip 1: Keep your body in sync with its natural sleep-wake cycle
This is one of the most important strategies that will help you catch up on your beauty sleep. If you keep on a schedule for your wake and sleep periods, you will feel more refreshed and energized. If you alter your schedule and sleep even the same amount of hours, but the time is different, you will feel the repercussions and won’t have the same feeling of freshness or energy. It is important to try to go to sleep at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every day. This will help your body’s internal clock be set and allow your body to optimize the quality of your sleep. Make sure that you pick a time to go to bed when your body feels tired. You don’t want to get into bed and just toss and turn for a while. The goal is to get enough sleep that your body will just naturally wake up without an alarm. If you struggle waking up and need an alarm clock, try giving yourself an earlier bedtime (isn’t that music to your ears you adults?). Avoid sleeping in, even on the weekends. It is important to keep your weekday and weekend sleep schedules the same. The more they differ, the more you will experience a jetlag symptom. There will be times when plans will be made, making it impossible to maintain the same bedtime routine. Rather than sleeping in the next day to make up for it, try taking a daytime nap. This will help you catch up on your sleep, but won’t mess with your natural sleep and wake rhythm. Napping can be a wonderful thing and an excellent way to make up for lost sleep. There are numerous health benefits, physically and mentally. However, if you have trouble falling or staying asleep at night, napping can make things worse if they’re too long or too close to your bedtime. If you do want to sketch in a nap during the day, limit it to 15-20 minutes, and make sure you take the nap in the early afternoon. When night-time rolls around again, you can feel a bit drowsy after dinner. If this happens to you, get off the couch and do something mildly stimulating. This could include washing the dishes, doing some laundry, calling a friend or family member. If you fall prey to the after dinner nap, you may find yourself awake in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep.
Tip 2-Control your exposure to light.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that is controlled by light exposure that will help regulate your sleep and wake cycles. When it’s dark, the brain secretes more melatonin, which will make you sleepy. There are many aspects in our lives that can alter our body’s production of melatonin. There are things that we can do to influence our exposure to light. During the daytime hours, you want to make sure to expose yourself to bright sunlight. Try drinking your coffee or eating your breakfast either outside or by a bright sunny window. Having light shine upon your face will help you wake up. Spend as much time as possible outdoors. Take a work break outside, exercise in the sunlight, eat your lunch outdoors, or walk the dog during the day. Try to have as much natural light as possible come inside your home or workplace. Open up the blinds and curtains during the day. Try to have your desk near a window so you are exposed to sunlight more. If you aren’t able to get access to the sun during the daytime hours, try using a light therapy box. This box will simulate sunshine and is especially helpful during the winter months when the days are shorter.
During the night hours, try to avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of bedtime. The light from your phone, tablet, computer or TV can be disruptive. You can minimize the brightness of some electronics by turning down the brightness. Try not to watch late night television. The light from the TV will suppress your melatonin. Rather than being hypnotized by bright lights at night, try listening to music or audio books. Tablets that are backlit are more disruptive than e-readers that don’t have their own light source. Avoid these kinds of tablets. Also make sure that you close your curtains or blinds on the windows so that your room is dark. You can also try sleeping with a mask (that's the real definition of beauty sleep right?). If you need to get up during the night, try to keep the lights turned down and use nightlights instead throughout the house.
Tip 3: Exercise during the day.
If you are able to exercise regularly, you will be able to sleep better at night and feel less tired during the day. Regular exercise will also improve the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea. It will increase the amount of time that you spend in a deep, restorative sleep. The more vigorous of exercise you do, the more your sleep will benefit. Even if you do some light exercising, such as walking, your quality of sleep will improve. It can take a few months of regular exercise before you will see the benefits in your sleeping habits so keep consistent! Make sure that you are patient and stick with creating healthy exercise habits. You will benefit greatly in the long run. It is important to finish moderate to vigorous exercise at least 3 hours before you go to bed. When you exercise, your metabolism speeds up, and your body temperature is elevated. If you work out too close to bedtime, these changes can interfere with your sleep. If finishing within the 3 hour window still gives you troubles with your sleeping, try exercising even earlier. The ideal time to exercise would be mornings or early afternoons. Although there are a few low impact exercises that can help promote sleep such as yoga and stretching.
Tip 4: Be smart about what you are eating and drinking.
Your daytime eating habits will affect your sleep. Are you ready for your world to be shaken? Try limiting your caffeine. It can lead to sleeping problems up to 10-12 hours after drinking or consuming it. You know what that means right? No more coffee after the early afternoon! We know, it hit us hard too. Because of the nicotine, smoking is also a stimulant that will disrupt your sleep if you smoke too close to your bedtime. It's also important to avoid eating big meals late at night. Try eating dinner earlier in the evening instead. Try to avoid heavy and rich foods within 2 hours of bedtime. Spicy and acidic foods can cause heartburn and give you stomach issues. Try avoiding alcohol before bedtime (yes, even on the weekends). Some people think a nightcap helps them relax, but it will interfere with your sleep cycle once you are asleep. Try to avoid liquids in the late evening. If you are drinking a lot of fluids, you may be setting yourself up for multiple bathroom trips during the night. Try to cut back on sugar and refined carbs. Foods like white bread, white rice, and pasta can trigger you to be awake during the night. They will pull you out of the deep, restorative sleep state. However, if the munchies are getting to you, there are some snacks that are better than others for night time. A turkey sandwich, a bowl of whole grain cereal, or yogurt and bananas are good options if you need a little something before you hit the sack.
Tip 5: Wind down and clear your head.
Stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it difficult to go to sleep or stay asleep. Anxiety and worry can dominate your thoughts at night. It is important to try to have a positive perspective on life. Something as simple as counting sheep is more useful than worrying. If you are dealing with stress, try learning how to manage your time more effectively. It is important to learn how to handle your stress in a productive way. Try maintaining a calm, positive outlook and you will be able to sleep better. If your brain is overstimulated during the day, it can be hard to unwind at night. During the day, we are prone to the everyday stresses of life. Our brain is being overstressed by constantly interrupting tasks to check our phones, emails, or social media accounts. Instead of doing this, try setting aside time each day for these things and focus on one task at a time. If you are able to do this, your brain will be better able to unwind at night rather than being accustomed to seeking fresh stimulation. You can try practicing relaxation techniques before going to bed. This is a great way to wind down, calm the mind, and prepare for sleep. Try doing some deep breathing. Close your eyes and take a deep shallow breath. Try making each breath deeper than the last. Try progressively relaxing your muscles. Start with your toes, try tensing all the muscles very light and then relax. Work your way from the bottom of your body to the top. Try visualizing a peaceful and restful place. Focus on how relaxed you can feel at this place. Sometimes having a bedtime ritual can help you relax. You can read or listen to a book, take a warm bath, listen to soft music, or do some yoga. When you consistently do the same tasks at night, it helps your body prepare for falling and staying asleep.
Tip 6: Improve your sleep environment.
When you have a peaceful bedtime routine, it will send a signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses. Try keeping your room dark, cool, and quiet. If you can’t keep your room quiet because of surrounding factors, such as neighbors, traffic, etc., try using a fan or noise machine. Most people sleep best in a cool room, around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. You need to make sure there is adequate ventilation. If your room is too hot or too cold, it can interfere with your sleep. You want to make sure that your bed is comfortable. Your bedding should allow you to stretch and turn comfortably without getting tangled. If you have a sore back or aching neck, try experimenting with different levels of mattress firmness. Try using your bed for sleep and sex only. If you avoid working, watching TV, or using the computer in your bed, your brain will associate the bed with only sleep and sex and make it easier to wind down.
Tip 7: Learn different ways to get back to sleep.
Everyone will have brief moments throughout the night where they wake up. However, if you have trouble falling back asleep, there are some tips that may help. Try not to stress about how you can’t fall back asleep. Stress only encourages your body to stay awake. Try breathing exercises. Take a deep breath in, and then breathe out slowly while saying or thinking the word “Ahh”. Repeat this exercise. Try focusing on just relaxing rather than sleeping. If you use meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation, both of which can be done without getting out of bed, this will help rejuvenate your body. Try doing a quiet, non-stimulating activity. If you are awake for more than 15 minutes, try getting out of bed and reading a book. Make sure to keep the lights low, and avoid any screen. You don’t want your body to think it is time to wake up. Try to postpone the worrying and brainstorming. If you wake up during the night and are feeling anxious, try writing down your worry on a piece of paper to tackle the next day. This also works if you wake with a great idea; simply write it down so you can move forward with it the next day.
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