Previously, we posted an article on six bad habits which can ruin your sleep. And while it’s simple enough to avoid these habits on a daily basis, a restful night’s sleep doesn’t come easily. Sleep is a performance activity: to sleep well, you have to show up prepared to play. So, Let’s help you get a better night sleep.
Similar to the aforementioned six bad habits, the rules for a better night’s sleep aren’t complicated. They are easy-to-implement strategies based on the fundamentals of sleep hygiene, a collection of daily routines and practices that contribute to better sleep at night and more energy during the day. Here are five simple rules for proper sleep.
1 – STICK TO ONE SLEEP SCHEDULE – A consistent sleep routine is the single most important habit you can establish to help you sleep better. Sleep has a rhythm, and a regular sleep schedule strengthens and supports that rhythm. The body’s biological rhythms regulate when we sleep and when we’re awake, guided by a master biological clock in the brain and bio clocks throughout the body. A regular sleep schedule helps to reinforce your natural bio rhythms, allowing you to fall asleep more easily, sleep more soundly and wake feeling more energized and refreshed.
2 – NO CAFFEINE AFTER TWO O’CLOCK – According to board-certified sleep specialist Michael Breus, PhD (thesleepdoctor.com), caffeine begins to act quickly in the body once ingested. Caffeine takes effect within 25–45 minutes, and its stimulant effects also last for a long time. Caffeine is metabolized slowly — it takes 6–8 hours to reduce its stimulant effects by only 1/2.
Caffeine disrupts the normal rise and fall of melatonin, a hormone that is essential to regulating sleep and wakefulness. When ingested at the wrong times, caffeine and other stimulants can also throw melatonin off its rhythm — and with it, your sleep-wake cycle. Caffeine before bedtime has an even more disruptive effect on melatonin than bright light exposure, according to scientific research.
You can enjoy caffeine in moderate amounts in the first part of the day, but cut yourself off from coffee and other caffeinated food and drink by 2 p.m. to avoid night time disruption. This is a guaranteed way to get a better night sleep.
3 – STOP CONSUMING ALCOHOL THREE HOURS BEFORE BEDTIME – Michael Breus states that alcohol is the world’s most common sleep aid. Unfortunately, it does nothing good for your sleep when consumed close to bedtime. While it’s true that alcohol will make you feel sleepy and may help you fall initially to sleep, the presence of alcohol in your system at night leads to poor sleep quality.
The closer to bedtime you consume alcohol, the more it interferes with your sleep. Once consumed, alcohol metabolizes over a period of hours, depending on several factors including your gender, size and weight, the amount you drink and food you’ve consumed.
If you have a drink or two (or three) close to bedtime, that alcohol will affect your sleep throughout the night. You’re more likely to wake frequently in the second half of the night and have trouble falling back to sleep — often because you need to use the bathroom. And, let’s not overlook the effects the next day — fatigue, mental sluggishness, irritability — which can carry over to affect your sleep the next night.
4 – STOP EXERCISING FOUR HOURS BEFORE BEDTIME – Exercise is great for sleep. Regular exercise improves sleep quality, helps you fall asleep more quickly and boosts your overall sleep time. It also increases your time spent in deep sleep. But exercising too close to bedtime can undermine your sleep. An evening workout can leave you feeling too energized and amped up to fall asleep on the schedule that is best for you.
Four hours between the end of exercise and your regular bedtime is enough time to get all the excellent sleep and health benefits of exercise without having your workout interfere with your sleep. To get a better night sleep, don’t skimp on exercise — just make time for it earlier in the day.
5 – EXPOSE YOURSELF TO THE SUN – Surpising that this would help with a better night sleep, right? Exposure to sunlight first thing in the morning can make you feel refreshed, energized and ready to jump into your day — and help you sleep better at night. Five minutes of sun exposure in the morning resets your body’s bio clock and strengthens your natural sleep-wake cycle. Early light exposure regulates the cycle of melatonin production in your body.
You don’t need to get a lot of sunlight in the morning to have a big impact on your sleep-wake cycle. Just five minutes is enough to send a powerful message to your bio clock, re-setting it to the right time for waking and setting you up for a better night of sleep. If you can’t get out into the sunlight in the morning, exposure to bright light indoors does the trick.
For more info on how to identify the right times (through your body’s chronotype) to do a wide variety of activities from eating lunch to writing a novel, check out the book “The Power of When” written by Michael Breus, PhD: http://amzn.to/2pXPrP5
Feel free to let us know if you’ve applied these tips to your daily life, and if they’ve helped you get a better night sleep. If you have any other tips on getting a better night sleep, please comment below and let us know.
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