Last month we talked about just a few of the many health benefits of getting an adequate amount of sleep. This month we are going to build upon that and discuss some simple strategies that will help you to fall AND stay asleep at night.
Tip #1: Establish a sleep-wake cycle
- You can set your body’s internal alarm clock by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day – even on weekends! First choose a time at night when you start to feel sleepy, that way you are not tossing and turning trying to fall asleep. Typically when you get adequate sleep, you should wake up when fully rested vs relying on the use of an alarm clock.
- Smart Napping is Key: If you are one that has difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night, try limiting your daytime nap to 15-20 minutes in the afternoon.
- Ward off that after dinner drowsiness with some light activity. Ideas include: calling a friend, washing the dishes, setting out clothing or other items needed for the next day.
Tip #2: Light Exposure Control
- During The Day:
- Try to expose yourself to bright sunlight as soon as you get up. For example, drink your morning coffee outside or eat breakfast near a window.
- Try to spend more time outside during the day. You can increase the amount of time spent outside during the day by taking your breaks outside, taking your dog for a walk in the morning vs the evenings, and/or exercising outside.
- Let as much natural light into your workspace by keeping curtains pulled back and if possible placing your desk next to the window.
- At Night:
- Try to avoid bright screens 1-2 hours prior to going to bed. You can try adjusting the brightness on your screen or switch to using a smaller device. Also try avoiding late night television; instead try reading a book or listening to music.
- Keep the room dark when it is time to sleep. Hanging black-out curtains and covering light emitting electronic devices can help. Also try using a low light nightlight in the hallway or bathroom or keep a small flashlight close by for safety if you need to get up in the middle of the night.
Tip #3 Exercise Smart
- A more vigorous workout should be completed 3 hours before going to sleep at night due to the increase in metabolism and energy it provides. A vigorous workout also increases your cortisol levels which is the exact opposite of what you want when you are trying to fall asleep at night.
- Performing low-impact exercise such as yoga or basic gentle stretching in the evenings can help promote improved sleep at night.
Tip #4 Clear your mind of stress and worry
- Relaxation techniques:
- Deep Breathing: Close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths trying to make each breath deeper than the last
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Start at your toes and tense your muscles up then relax, working your way all the way up to the top of your head.
- Make Relaxation the Primary Focus: Instead of focusing on falling asleep, turn your focus over to relaxation. Close your eyes and envision a peaceful, relaxing place.
Tip #5 Learn How to Fall Back Asleep
- Try closing your eyes and doing some deep breathing vs. lying awake worrying about not being able to fall back asleep.
- If you are brainstorming an idea or worrying about something, try making a small note on paper in order to clear your mind and redirect your problem solving to the morning. In the morning you are better rested and are more inclined to be thinking clearer.
- If you have been awake for greater than 15 minutes get up and do a non-stimulating activity such as reading a book (keep the lights dim and avoid screens)