Spa.ology recognizes that many of us suffer from a lack of quality sleep. We have challenges getting to sleep in the first place, staying asleep and then getting back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. Spa.ology is here to the rescue! Here are some great tips to put into action to help alleviate your challenges and allow you to be productive, mentally sharp and emotionally balanced.
FIRST – put sleep on a regular schedule. Going to bed each night and getting up each morning at the same time every day (including weekends) will allow you to feel more refreshed and energetic than if you got the same number of hours of sleep, but at different times. Consistency is the key.
- Set a regular time to go to bed each night and wake up at the same time every day.
- Be sure to prevent after-dinner drowsiness (aka – falling asleep on the couch).
- Get off the couch and find activities that are only mildly stimulating. Wash the dishes, get your clothes ready for the next day or talk on the phone with a friend.
SECOND – naturally regulate your sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in our bodies that helps to regulate your sleep/wake cycles. It is controlled by light exposure. Typically, your brain should secrete MORE melatonin in the evening to make you sleepy and less during the day to keep you alert. Be sure that you’re not sabotaging this cycle. In order to decrease melatonin secretion during the day, you need to increase your exposure to light.
- Let as much daylight/sunlight into your home and workspace as possible. Open up those blinds and curtains.
- Spend more time outside during the day. Take mini-breaks in the sunlight, walk the dog during the day instead of the evening.
- Remove your sunglasses in the morning time and let the sunshine onto your face (but don’t forget the SPF!)
- During the shorter winter days, use a light box to simulate sunshine.
At night, you need to do the opposite … boost the melatonin secretion by reducing your exposure to light!
- Don’t use the TV to fall asleep with at night. Not only does the TV light reduce the melatonin secretion, but the TV will stimulate the mind rather than relaxing it.
- As much as we love all of the new techno gadgets, don’t read from a backlit device such as an iPad. Either read from a Kindle that is NOT backlit or use the old-fashioned way of reading … an actual book with a bedside lamp!
- Change your lightbulbs to lower wattage bulbs in the family room and bedroom.
- When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is DARK! The darker the better. Cover up gadgets with the displays that light up the room.
THIRD – create a relaxing bedtime routine. Follow a routine to help you relax and wind down before going to sleep. Ideas for your pre-bedtime routine can include: reading a book, listening to music, or taking a bath. Also … avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep or sex. Here are some other tips to incorporate into your pre-bedtime routine:
- Try a light snack before bed. Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as bananas, may help you to sleep.
- Practice relaxation techniques before bed. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing and others may help relieve anxiety and reduce muscle tension.
- Get into your favorite sleeping position. If you don’t fall asleep within 15-30 minutes, get up, go into another room, and read until sleepy.
FOURTH – eat right and get regular exercise. This is probably one of the most important tips for sleeping better! The combination of good eating habits and regular exercise can make all of the difference.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can keep you from falling asleep. Alcohol can cause you to wake in the night. It also interferes with sleep quality.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal late in the day. A light snack before bedtime may help you sleep.
- Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime. These can affect your ability to stay asleep.
- Exercise regularly, but not right before bed. Regular exercise, particularly in the afternoon, can help deepen sleep. Strenuous exercise within the 2 hours before bedtime, however, can decrease your ability to fall asleep.
FIFTH – get anxiety and stress in check. If you tend to lie awake worrying about things, try making a to-do list before you go to bed. This may help you to “let go” of those worries overnight.
- Don’t take your worries to bed. Leave your worries about job, school, daily life, etc., behind when you go to bed.
- Some people find it useful to assign a “worry period” during the evening or late afternoon to deal with these issues.
SIXTH – get back to sleep. Most people wake up one or two times a night for various reasons.If you find that you get up in the middle of night and cannot get back to sleep within 15-20 minutes, then do not remain in the bed “trying hard” to sleep.
- Get out of bed. Leave the bedroom.
- Read, have a light snack, do some quiet activity, or take a bath. You will generally find that you can get back to sleep within 20 minutes.
- Do not perform challenging or engaging activity such as office work, housework, etc.
- Do not watch television!
SEVENTH – know when to see a sleep doctor. If you’ve tried the tips above, but are still struggling with sleep problems, you may have a sleep disorder that requires professional treatment. Consider scheduling a visit with a sleep doctor if, despite your best efforts at self–help, you are still troubled by any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Loud snoring accompanied by pauses in breathing
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Frequent morning headaches
- Crawling sensations in your legs or arms at night
- Inability to move while falling asleep or waking up
- Physically acting out dreams during sleep
- Falling asleep at inappropriate times
So now that you are armed with seven helpful tips to help improve your sleep, you should be able to face the world with more energy, sharpness and overall balance. What tips do you have to share with us? Post a comment and let us know!