How many times have you made decisions that negatively affected your sleep? Everything from a late afternoon coffee to a nightcap before bed can be great in the moment, but terrible for sleep. With all those missed zzzs, you could actually be depriving your body of the necessary building blocks to perform well each day. Sleep helps you rebuild tissue, repair damaged cells and build up energy for the next day. It’s imperative that you find a way to snooze better. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to help ease your sleep woes so you can get the rest you need every night. Just follow these seven tips for getting better sleep starting tonight.
Skip the caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that helps you stay alert and can also prevent you from falling asleep or having good quality sleep. Having some even six hours before your bedtime can be disruptive to your sleep cycle. Caffeine has a “half-life” of approximately six hours, and although the level of caffeine in your body is reduced, it is still somewhat effective after this time. To avoid sleep disruption, restrict your caffeine consumption to the morning hours. If you do have an afternoon coffee, stick to a 2:00 p.m. cut off.
Get some sunshine
Getting a healthy dose of sunshine first thing in the morning helps regulate the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Your circadian rhythm runs on a 24-hour clock and works best when exposed to a pattern of light and dark, so make it a point to get outside when you wake up.
Quit drinking after dinner
Some people use alcohol as a sleep aid, and although it can make you sleepy, alcohol is not the answer to getting better sleep. Drinking alcohol within 4 hours of bedtime keeps from reaching the deep stages of sleep. Additionally, alcohol dehydrates you and can wake you in the middle of the night from thirst. This means you’ll wake up feeling more tired than usual.
You don’t need to run a marathon, but you can’t just sit around all day and expect yourself to have good sleep. Your body was made for movement, and getting consistent, moderate exercise during the day will help you fall asleep more quickly and get you into a deeper sleep for a longer period. That being said, exercising too close to bedtime might make you feel wide awake. Vigorous exercise keeps your body temperature elevated for about four to five hours which can make it harder to fall asleep.
Dim the lights at night
Light has the biggest impact on our circadian rhythm–far more so than food or social cues–so do yourself a favor and step away from the TV in the evening. If you truly must work after dinner, use a filter on your computer or laptop screen to block out blue light, as this wavelength of light can keep you awake longer than yellow light. Try to limit your exposure to artificial light by making the last hour of your bedtime ritual electronics free. Once you are ready to fall asleep, use an eye mask or blackout shades at night to block out unwanted light and keep potential midnight wake-ups at bay.
Body temperature and room temperature both help us fall asleep, stay asleep, and get more restorative sleep. During the day, your temperature fluctuates according to your sleep cycle. In the evening, your body temperature starts to decrease, reaching its lowest temperature sometime in the early morning. If your bedroom is too warm, it may interfere with your body’s need to cool down and cause you to wake throughout the night. Although everyone may have a different optimal temperature for sleep (depending on your pajamas and your bedding), 65 to 75 degrees is the sweet spot.
Respect chronic health issues
Physical ailments are never enjoyable in daily life, and they can create even more issues for sleep. If you’ve struggled with your sleep or feel discouraged when you compare your sleep to others, don’t worry. If you stay the course and try new sleep techniques, you’ll be well on your way to curing your sleep woes.
Don’t be afraid to find the right combination that works for you. See how moderate exercise–that lunchtime walk, for example–compares to a high-octane gym session. Try to practice relaxation techniques to ease your frustrations. And once you’ve hit a sleep milestone, celebrate your achievements, big or small. Feeling a bit better today than you did yesterday is a really big deal and can be a game changer in the long run. Don’t ever try to ignore your pain. If you feel like you aren’t getting the sleep you need, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the best ways to treat any pain and help minimize your sleep disruptions.