Getting to sleep and staying asleep are issues that many face. The good news is there is a lot you can do in your lifestyle and routine to promote improved sleep. Sleep is essential for repairing your body and mind, solidifying learning and memory, keeping your immune system strong, and providing the re-charging you need to tackle the next day! Take a look over these tips and see where you have room for improvement for getting your sleep back on track.
- Remove yourself from screen time 1 hour before bed. Screen time and media use keep the brain distracted from sleeping. It is also easy to lose track of time watching T.V. or being on the internet which can cause you to stay up later than needed. Screens from computers, phones, TVs etc. emit the same type of light as daytime hours. This causes a decrease in melatonin, which is your body’s hormonal way of getting ready to sleep.
- Create a nighttime routine: Your body will begin to know that bedtime is coming soon and prepare accordingly. By creating a routine approximately an hour before bed (after screen time), such as bath/shower, reading, listening to relaxing music, or performing deep breathing, the body will be primed that the immediate action following this routine is to fall asleep. With a steady routine, you will be more likely to count on falling asleep within a reasonable time frame.
- Finish up snacks or meals more than 2 hours prior to bedtime. Eating late at night can change up your internal clock for bedtime. You may choose to consume more calories than needed as well. Weight gain is associated with poor sleep patterns and late night eating due to metabolic changes associated with processing sugar. In addition, limit any caffeine use 6 hours prior to your bedtime.
- Prepare your sleep space. Keep lights dim, find a comfortable room temperature for sleeping, and ensure you have a mattress, pillows, and blankets that allow for restful sleep.
- Keep work or T.V. watching to other spaces than your bed. Do you make your bed your office? Or place to watch TV or movies? Your brain will begin to connect your room space with work or being alert which will increase your difficulties of going back to this space in the nighttime to sleep.
- Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time everyday. Creating a daily sleep schedule that can work for you each day will allow your body’s circadian rhythm to be accustomed and prepared for sleep and wake times daily. This will allow you to have the right levels of energy and hormones for the day. It is important to stick to this routine on work days, weekends, holidays etc. Creating a ‘sleep deficit’ during the week by sleep <6.5 hours and ‘catching up’ on the weekends (>8.5 hours) hurts the creation of a regular sleep cycle and typically causes greater fatigue and inability to focus.
- Exercise earlier in the day. Being on a regular exercise routine 3-5 days/week for 30+ minutes helps the body to release hormones in the evening that make it easier to fall asleep at a reasonable time. If you exercise too close to bedtime, however, you may notice an initial increase in energy that does not allow you to fall asleep at the needed time.
- Find outlets for your daily stress. Many times what keeps people awake is ‘running thoughts’ of lists or tasks to be completed. Perhaps, it is a life stressor that is keeping you up and worried. Work to find outlets that bring you joy and relaxation during the day in order to allow you to have the recovery you need at night!
Author: Dr. Jillian Stecklein, Director of Physical Therapy Services with MyCatholicDoctor
Editor: Samantha Wright, Marketing Director with MyCatholicDoctor