Welcome to Friday’s Top Ten List! I am moving a bit slowly today because I’ve not slept well the past couple of nights. Some of you may think that is no big deal, especially if you haven’t slept well in years. I know your pain! I, too, suffered from chronic sleep deprivation. Sadly, I became so accustomed to living at half-throttle, I didn’t even realize how tired I was (I was also inefficient, snappy, and lacked focus). However, after a nice vacation and some great sleep I realized I was in big trouble and needed to make some changes. Through trial and error, I turned my sleep habits around and have consistently had quality sleep for the past couple of years.
Of course, I still have blips in my routine, like the one I’m currently experiencing. The difference now is that I very quickly recognize when I am sleep deprived and why. Once I have identified the Sleep Intruder–in my case, back spasms caused from slipping on the ice–I do whatever necessary to restore my optimum sleep environment and get back on schedule.
Study after study indicates good sleep is a cornerstones of good health. Most adults require six to eight hours of sound sleep, per night. Too little or too much both have adverse effects on health and functionality.
In my quest for optimum sleep, I made many changes, but compiled ten changes anyone can make to help overcome sleep deprivation and establish a routine for sleep that leaves you well-rested and physically and mentally energized.
The Top Ten Ways to Establish Good Sleeping Habits
- Stick to a schedule. Sticking to a schedule allows your body to set its internal rhythm so you can wake up at the time you want, consistently, every single day. It is tempting to sleep in on weekends, but doing so throws off your natural schedule and will actually make you feel more tired.
- Sleep only at bedtime. If possible, avoid naps and off-schedule sleeping. If you are facing a mid-day slump, get some exercise. If you must nap, limit it to a 20-minute power nap.
- Exercise regularly. Did you know exercising for at least 30 minutes per day actually provides 24 hour benefits? Starting your day with exercise stimulates your body and brain for the entire day. The exercise-induced physiological changes carry over and help you sleep better at night. Exercise is energizing, so do not exercise late in the day, or you may have trouble falling asleep.
- Avoid pre-slumber snacks and meals. Stop eating two hours before bed time to allow your body to begin the digestion process. If you must snack, avoid grains and sugary foods, as they raise your blood sugar and delay sleep because the body is hard at work digesting them.
- Avoid caffeine. Some people tolerate caffeine better than others, but the majority of us should refrain from caffeine intake after 4pm.
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol will relax you and make it easier to fall asleep. However, the effects are short-lived and will keep you from entering the deeper stages of sleep.
- Have the room slightly cooler. The optimum sleeping temperature is between 60 and 68 degrees. Our body temperature naturally dips during sleep and rises near wake up. A warm room disrupts this naturally occurring cycle and causes us to wake prematurely.
- Take a hot showeror bath. As mentioned in #6, our body’s temperature naturally drops during sleep. Taking a hot shower or bath elevates your body temperature, then as you step out of the shower it begins to drop, indicating to your body it is time to sleep. An added bonus is an opportunity to wash away the worries of the day and relax tense muscles!
- Sleep in a cocoon. I don’t mean literally, but figuratively. Create a dark, quiet, peaceful environment. Turn off music and television. If you cannot sleep in complete quiet, introduce some white noise–a fan, ocean sounds, rain sounds, etc. If you sleep with a snorer, invest in good quality ear plugs. Cover your windows and turn off night lights, cover or reduce the brightness of LED lights which are present in clocks and other electronic devices, and shut your door. Not only does the light from an alarm clock disrupt your sleep, if you do happen to wake during the night, watching the time will only create more anxiety.
- Relax.Watching television or reading a suspenseful book right before bed, or as you drift off to sleep, stimulates the brain. Watching the news at bedtime can also cause worry and stress. Instead, listen to relaxing music, or soothing sounds, read something uplifting, or offer thanks for the day. Let your brain wind down.
Obviously, I’m not a doctor, nor do I know what works for everyone. The above tips are intended for the average, over-stimulated, under-rested individual who just can’t get caught up on sleep! If you suffer ongoing insomnia, I encourage you to talk to your physician about it, you may have an underlying medical condition.