10 Tips to Create a Healthy Sleeping Pattern
You snooze you lose, right?
Nothing could be more wrong. We all know sleep is good for us, and that we should probably do more of it. But we don’t always act like it. And we aren’t all able to say exactly why sleep is so important.
As it turns out, sleep is crucial to brain function, emotional health, and physical health. Not only does sufficient sleep help us learn and focus, but it also helps us be creative. The time we spend asleep is essential to the brain’s maintenance of memories as well as its formation of new neuronal connections, and it may even be crucial to physiological maintenance as the brain clears out “waste.” Sleep is also important in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, appetite, insulin reaction, growth and development, and immune system–not to mention its role in preventing mishaps like car accidents caused by lack of sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should sleep seven to nine hours per night. Despite its significance to our physical and emotional health, around 80 percent of working adults suffer from some degree of sleep deprivation. We can struggle with making decisions, solving problems, regulating our emotions and behavior, and dealing with change, all as a result of not getting enough sleep . Sleep deprivation also puts us at risk for depression, suicide, risk-taking behavior, and obesity.
Even if we understand the importance of sleep, it can be challenging to get in a few hours of shut-eye, let alone quality shut-eye. Creating a healthy sleep pattern requires discipline around a combination of daytime and bedtime habits to get the most of our sleep. Read on to learn the dos and don’ts of a healthy sleep routine.
10 Things Not to Do During Bedtime
1. NAP: Avoid napping, especially in the afternoon. While naps may be a short-term solution to getting through your day, they may cause you to have difficulty falling asleep at night. Nixing them altogether will make it easier for you to fall asleep at night.
2. IMBIBE: Stay away from alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine in the evening. (According to sleep.org), alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine can interfere with your zzzs. A recent study found that smokers had a higher level of brain activity in sleep than nonsmokers, causing them to feel less-rested in the morning.
3. EAT: Steer clear of heavy meals two to three hours before bedtime. Eating large meals may contribute to indigestion, a discomfort that can make it difficult to sleep.
4. USE ELECTRONIC DEVICES: Don’t stare at a screen right before hitting the hay. Electronic devices can make it more difficult to fall asleep because of the way their light activates the brain.
5. NEGLECT HAVING A SCHEDULE: Skimping on sleep on a weeknight and “binge-sleeping” over the weekend interferes with your sleep cycles. Avoid staying up late and sleeping in, even on the weekends.
6. HIT SNOOZE IN THE AM: Repeatedly hitting the snooze button in the morning can actually leave you feeling less well-rested than getting up right with your alarm. According to researchers, sleep is divided into five continually shifting stages, and toward the morning there is an increase in REM sleep. During REM, muscles relax, dreams occur, and memories may be consolidated). Snoozing will shorten the increments of this important stage of sleep, “[diminishing] the restorative value of rest” according to psychologist and sleep researcher Edward Stepanski. Sleep-deprived snooze-button addicts are likely to shorten their quota of REM sleep, impairing their mental functioning during the day.
7. SLEEP IN A WARM ROOM: Your body temperature naturally decreases during sleep; having a cool room helps with this process while a hot room can stunt it. You should keep your bedroom slightly cooler than the rest of your home. Ideally, your room would be between sixty and sixty-seven degrees Fahrenheit.
8. STARE AT THE CLOCK: Watching the minutes tick by on your clock can heighten your anxiety if you’re having trouble sleeping. Turn it away so you won’t worry about how many hours you have until your alarm.
9. LEAVE THE LIGHTS ON: Light from digital sources as well as lamps and lightbulbs can interfere with melatonin levels, and melatonin helps you fall and remain asleep. Turn off all light sources–not just your devices.
10. SLEEP IN TIGHT PAJAMAS: A recent study found that tight, body-hugging clothes can interfere with our circadian rhythm (the twenty four-hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings, influenced by external cues like sunlight and temperature) enough to “decrease melatonin levels and increase body temperature”, negatively affecting sleep.
10 Tips to Get Better Sleep
1. STICK TO A REGULAR SLEEP SCHEDULE: This helps to regulate your body’s clock and can aid you in falling and staying asleep. That said, don’t try to force yourself to go to sleep if you aren’t ready. If you haven’t been able to fall asleep after twenty minutes, go to another room and do something relaxing until you are tired enough to sleep.
2. HAVE A BEDTIME RITUAL: A relaxing, routine activity before bed and away from bright lights helps you separate sleep time from other activities associated with excitement, stress, or anxiety–things that are not conducive to sleep. To get into sleep mode, spend your last hour before bed on a calming activity. Common ones include reading, knitting, listening to calming music, stretching, drawing, burning incense or candles, and/or meditating.
3. MANAGE WORRIES AND STRESS: Resolve concerns before bed. It can be helpful to write down what’s on your mind in a journal, and so can getting organized by writing down reminders or plans before bed.
4. IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP ENVIRONMENT: Keep your bedroom between sixty and sixty-seven degrees, and keep light and noise to a minimum. Some find blackout curtains, ear plugs, eye masks, white noise machines, humidifiers, and fans helpful.
5. FALL BACK ASLEEP: Waking in the night is normal. To fall back asleep, make an effort to stay calm and avoid getting stressed through activities like deep, breathing, meditating, or reading in dim light. Postpone worrying–about not being able to sleep and anything else. (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/getting-better-sleep.htm)
6. EXERCISE DAILY: Those who exercise on a regular basis sleep better at night and feel more awake throughout the day. Regular exercise also alleviates symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea. It even increases the time you spend in deep, restorative stages of sleep! The more vigorous you exercise, the more powerful the sleep benefits. But any exercise at all improves sleep quality.
7. WAKE UP TO LIGHT: Waking up to natural light in the morning can help you wake up and help your body establish a healthy circadian rhythm. Consider opening the curtains to let natural light into your room right when you wake up, and having your coffee outside in the sunlight.
8. LIMIT THE BED TO SLEEP AND SEX: Try not to work, watch TV, or use the computer in bed. If you reserve the bed for sleep and sex, your brain can associate the bedroom with just those activities, making it easier to unwind at bedtime.
9. FOLLOW THROUGH: Some of these behaviors are easy to stick to, but maintaining these habits can be difficult, especially because it can take time to see how these changes are benefiting your sleep at night and your energy during the day. Stick with it and remain patient.
10. REACH OUT: Know when is time to reach out. Everyone goes through a sleepless night here and there. But if your sleeping problems are not reduced by your efforts, consult with your doctor or a sleep specialist. Learn more at http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/treatment.