In our last blog, we talked about how a lack of sleep affects your body, and how the stages of sleep work. Today, we’ll focus on how to maximize your sleep by making smart choices and creating a routine. Improving your sleep is a big step in improving your overall health.
Help Your Sleep Through The Day
Develop a routine
Your body benefits from a steady routine. Developing a sleep schedule will help you fall asleep more easily, and feel rested when you wake up. Go to bed at the same time every night, and set an alarm to wake up at the same time every morning. Even on the weekends! Develop a routine that allows for 7-8 hours sleep.
Nap during the day
If your body feels tired through the day don’t be afraid to nap. Just make sure you nap right! Try and keep it to 25-30 minutes, or a full 90-minute sleep cycle if you really need it. Don’t sleep too late in the day. Try a caffeine nap – drink a cup of coffee, and nap until the caffeine kicks in, which would be about 20 minutes.
Spend time outdoors
Sunshine and fresh air can do wonders for your health, and for your sleep at night. If you find the lack of sunlight in the winter leaves you lethargic, purchase a light therapy lamp to help keep your energy up.
Be mindful of your eating habits
The food you eat affects many aspects of your health, including your sleep. If you go to bed on an empty stomach, hunger will keep your brain alert, making it difficult to sleep. Similarly, going to bed after eating will hinder your digestion and keep you from sleeping well. If you need to snack before bed, stick to foods containing tryptophan. It helps produce serotonin, then becomes metabolized into melatonin. Aim for foods like yogurt, banana, milk, eggs, or turkey. If you’re eating carbs, go light with them.
Now that you know what you can do throughout the day, it’s time to focus on your evenings! There are many things you can do close to bedtime to prepare yourself for sleep.
Developing relaxing bedtime rituals
Turn off screens
About an hour before bed, move away from your screens. Put your phone in another room, turn off your tv and shut down your computer. Instead, read a book in soft lighting. If you cannot put away your phone or computer, use a blue light filter. Most computers and phones come with a blue light filter, or “night light” setting. But if yours doesn’t have it, there are many apps you can download.
Take steps to relax
It will be much easier to fall asleep if you’ve already begun unwinding from the day’s stress. Since you’ve already turned off your screens, watching tv is not an option. Instead, take a warm bath or a shower. You can use bath products or essential oils with scents like lavender, jasmine, or vanilla to increase your relaxation. After that, do some light stretching to relax your muscles. Once you’re loosened up, sit in bed and relax with some quiet music, an audio book, or read a physical book in low lighting. By this time you will be practically melting into your bed!
Create a perfect sleep environment
No matter how many steps you take to unwind and relax, you won’t be able to sleep well if your environment isn’t comfortable for you. So now you have to consider your bedroom at night. Make sure your mattress, pillow, and sheets are all comfortable for you. If you’re not completely comfortable, you will spend the night tossing and turning. So make sure you put a lot of thought into those key things!
Turn the sound down
Keep the room quiet, so there are no distractions. There are some people, however, who can’t sleep in silence. Instead, consider using a fan, a white noise machine, or a recording of relaxing sounds like rain, or classical music. Whatever most puts your mind at ease.
Here’s one that is going to be hard for some people to hear: keep your pets out of your bedroom. It’s hard, we know. They’re so cute, and everyone loves to cuddle. But when your dog snores louder than any human in the house, or your cat wants to lovingly knead you every 3 hours or so, that’s going to keep you awake. So as painful as it might be, put their bed in another room, and close your door.
The air in your room also plays an important role in your sleep. Air pollution is prevalent inside as well as outside. And if you forget to clean vents, or keep all your windows constantly shuttered in winter, the stale air you’re breathing can be bad for you. Make sure your room is well ventilated, and toss open the windows to get some fresh air flowing. (Yes, even in the winter!) Air purifiers are also a handy option to keep you healthy. The other thing to consider with the bedroom air is the temperature. A cool room makes sleeping soundly much easier, and much more likely. So bring the thermostat down a couple of degrees, and enjoy your favourite sheets all the more for it!
Light cues a chemical reaction in your body that suppresses melatonin production. This is how our circadian rhythm syncs with the day. But when bright lights follow you to bedtime, or lights stay on through the night, it can confuse your sleep cycle. So it’s best to let your lighting wind down with you. When you put away your screens, bring down the lighting as well. When it’s bedtime, turn out all the lights. If you need a light to stay on, invest in a good quality eye mask. Put up light blocking curtains so that the sunrise won’t wake you before you feel ready.
Good sleep is essential to good health, and a solid night’s rest could mean the difference between a productive day and just getting by. If your sleep habits are less than ideal, these tips can help you optimize your rest. So get relaxed, get comfortable, and get sleeping!