Contrary to the idea that our sleep is at the mercy of what we do in the hours leading up to bedtime, our daytime habits can often have an even bigger impact on our sleep than our nightly ones. We often call these behaviors ‘sleep hygiene’, and while there are some you can do during the evening, many of them fall exclusively in the daytime hours.
Let’s explore some healthy daytime habits worth adopting for restful nights.
1. Wake at the Same Time Each Morning
Start your day off by waking around the same time each morning. This is good-sleep-behavior 101 because your body loves routine. Greater sleep time variability has been shown to be associated with adverse health outcomes. Over time, your body’s internal clock, also called your circadian rhythm, will get accustomed to this new time, which can help with falling asleep and waking up each day.
2. Bask In the Morning Sunlight
Does your morning routine involve sitting under the sunlight? If it doesn’t, consider creating space for it.
Exposure to sunlight, especially within the first two hours of waking up is one of the most effective ways to support your circadian rhythm, your body clock that regulates your sleep-wake cycle, and other biological and behavioral processes in the body.
Sunlight can keep you awake, alert, and energized for the day. Experts suggest that getting the morning sun can even shift your sleep time to earlier in the evening. A 2017 study found that exposure to sunlight between 5:00am and 10:00am improved sleep quality in older adults. Another study suggests that light in the waking hours can help you fall asleep faster at night.
You can get some sunlight by having breakfast or coffee close to an open window or going for morning walks or jogs. If you can’t get light from the sun, you can also use light therapy lamps to produce similar effects as sunlight on the circadian rhythm and sleep.
3. Keep Moving
Exercise is one of the most vital habits for your sleep health. Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 60 percent of adults don’t get their recommended physical activity levels, and 25 percent are entirely inactive.
Exercise can help you stay alert and energized during the day and help you relax, fall asleep, and stay asleep at night. According to a 2012 study, exercise shows beneficial effects on the sleep quality of middle-aged and older adults and can be used as an alternative remedy for alleviating sleep problems.
Similarly, another study suggests that exercise and sleep hygiene can improve sleep quality, mood, and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. A 2017 review also observed that exercise could significantly improve sleep apnea symptoms, sleep quality, and the time it takes to fall asleep.
You don’t have to engage in vigorous exercise to enjoy the benefits of exercise. A simple home workout routine can work. You can also participate in daily walks, runs, or yoga. If you struggle with dedicating a fixed time to exercise, you can take breaks between working hours to move around your office and do stretches.
However, try not to participate in intense workout routines in the evening, as it may lead to hyperarousal before bedtime and disturb your nighttime rest.
4. Limit Alcohol and Caffeine in the Latter Part of the Day
One thing alcohol and caffeine have in common is that when you consume them close to bedtime, they can negatively affect your sleep.
Caffeine is a stimulant that keeps your body alert and awake. If you’re not participating in a night shift or staying up all night, try not to take caffeine close to bedtime. Generally speaking, any caffeine close to bedtime can impair your sleep quality, but many don’t realize just how long it can stay in your system. A study suggests that consuming caffeine within six hours before bedtime can reduce your sleep time by an hour.
When it comes to alcohol, it can initially make you feel sleepy and help you fall asleep, but it will drastically impair the quality of your sleep later throughout the night. Many people who experience trouble sleeping may turn to alcohol to get some rest. Although alcohol acts as a sedative, studies suggest it can significantly disrupt your sleep in the second half of the night.
A 2018 study observed that taking alcohol in the first hours of sleep can increase sympathetic activity (activating the fight-or-flight response) and reduce parasympathetic activity (the part of the nervous system that drives rest, digestion, and recovery), limiting the body’s ability to rest and relax. What’s worse, alcohol can contribute to or worsen sleep problems like insomnia and breathing-related sleep disorders.
5. Stay Hydrated
Water makes up about 50 percent of body weight. Water promotes good health, and without it, no one can live. Although there aren’t many studies on the relationship between hydration and sleep, an optimal hydration status can support sleep.
Mild dehydration can impair mood and increase fatigue and headache, contributing to poor sleep. On the flip side, proper hydration can reduce cardiac workload, leading to lower heart rate and blood pressure, supporting the body’s wind-down process before sleep. Not to mention that a 2017 study observed that restricting water intake reduces sleep quality.
Try to consume water regularly throughout the day to support your sleep health. But when bedtime nears, taper off, so you don’t have to wake at night to visit the restroom and disturb your night’s rest.
Recommended water intake varies depending on age, weather, environment, health status, physical activity levels, etc. However, a general guideline for consumption notes that you should strive to drink about one ounce of water for each pound that you weigh.
You can also improve your hydration by having water-rich foods like cucumber, apples, tomatoes, celery, and lettuce.
6. Take Relaxing Breaks During the Day to Reduce Stress Levels
Stress can put your body in a constant fight-or-flight mode, making you tensed and unable to relax. Stress can also contribute to sleep problems like insomnia. However, you can release tension from your body by taking short breaks to perform relaxation exercises during the day.
Relaxation exercises that can calm your body and mind include taking walks, stretching, engaging in relaxing hobbies, meditation, deep breathing, listening to relaxing music, playing with a pet, etc.
If you can’t do these activities during the day, you can push the non-stimulating activities to evening to help your body wind down. Releasing your body of stress before bedtime can help you get better sleep.
If you’re having trouble managing your stress levels, consider seeing a doctor for appropriate intervention.
7. Take Care of Your To-Dos in the Early Hours of the Evening
You might be fond of creating your next day’s to-do right before bed. However, doing this can make the next day’s tasks the last thing on your mind. This habit can induce worry or overthinking, affecting your ability to relax and fall asleep.
Instead, you can create your to-do list during the day or in the early hours of the evening. In this case, when it’s bedtime, having a good night’s sleep can be the last thing on your mind.
Changing your daytime habits to support better sleep can be hard. Any behavior change should be incorporated slowly to increase your chances of long term adoption and success over time. Instead of trying all of these new habits at once, perhaps pick one, and work on it for a week or two. If you’re thinking about adding physical activity to your weekly routine, create small but meaningful milestones for yourself, like adding a 20 minute walk 2 times per week to start. Then, increase duration and/or frequency, and see how it feels. Habits take consistency and discipline to form, but they can reap incredible rewards for your well-being.