Fall is my favorite season but it is no good for my sleep schedule. The early darkness and late-coming first-glimpse-of-the-sun have a way of throwing off my natural body clock. Know the feeling? We could all use a good lesson in how to sleep better. Just remember the following 10 things for quality Zzz’s that will help you wake up refreshed and ready to dominate your day.
1. Discover your natural sleeping rhythm.
Find a few days in a row where you don’t have to be awake by any particular time and forget about setting your alarm. Go to bed at the same time every night and let your body awake when it chooses to do so. Write down when you wake and write down how you feel. Repeat this exercise until you discover your ideal sleep schedule.
2. Keep a consistent bed-time ritual.
I know this isn’t easy if you have kids, so your ritual can be as simple or as elaborate as it needs to be. Plenty of time to spare? Unwind with a bubble bath, good book, hot tea, and incense or candles. Only have a little while? Dim the lights in your home an hour before bed. After you tuck the kids in, perform a super quick consistent ritual before getting under the covers. For example: you could brush and floss your teeth, lay out your clothes for the next day, and write down the most important things you have to do tomorrow. Train your brain with a patient attitude to wire your body to sleep with ease.
3. Catch some rays during the day.
Melatonin is the hormone in your body that regulates your sleep cycle. Have you ever noticed your energy in the morning tends to increase when you take your first step into the sun-light? That’s because melatonin production is influenced by exposure to light. Make sure you catch some rays during the day because chaining yourself to your desk (and denying your body access to natural light) will make you feel groggy long before your day is over.
4. Watch out for artificial light late at night.
The more melatonin your body produces, the sleepier you will be. Light decreases its production and darkness increases it. Unfortunately, the artificial light found on lap-tops, computer monitors, TV screens, cell-phones and so on are not excluded from this equation. Limit your exposure to all electronics within one hour of your bed-time. Dive into a book for a more sleep-friendly alternative.
5. Turn down your thermostat.
The average person sleeps best at a temperature of 65 degrees. Is it a little warm? Sleep in your skivvies and ditch the cover. A little cool? Bundle up in something comfy and warm. Adjust your attire to the temperature for a good night’s sleep.
6. Cut the lights and eliminate the noise.
Just like distractions can wreck your productivity in the middle of a task or chore, they can also mess up the quality of your sleep. If you live in a noisy apartment or neighborhood, buy some comfortable noise reduction ear muffs or try going to bed with something relaxing like nature sounds, beach noises, or classical music playing. If there is a bright light sneaking into your window, invest in an eye mask.
7. Move your body.
How to sleep better in one word: exercise! Save vigorous workouts like weight-lifting, sprints, and physically taxing sports for early in the day because they can energize your body late at night (causing the opposite of the desired effect). Gentle yoga with conscious breathing, however, would be a perfect late-night routine to prepare your body for a perfect night of sleep.
8. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
It should come as no surprise that caffeine isn’t the best beverage to drink late in the day, but did you know it can cause sleep problems 10-12 hours after consumption? If you have a hard time sleeping, you’d be wise to cut yourself off by noon. Also, while alcohol might give you a vicious case of the sleepies, the benefit doesn’t last. Alcohol damages the quality of your sleep, causing you to wake frustrated and groggy before you’re anywhere close to ready to start the day.
9. Have dinner at least a couple hours before bed.
Rich foods that are full of fat take a long time to digest in your body, which could make it hard for you to fall asleep. Also, I’m sure you have a beverage or two with that dinner, and drinking too close to bed could cause you to wake up with an overwhelming urge to pee.
10. Set a bed-time alarm.
Not a wake-up alarm: a bed-time alarm! If you’re a Facebook or Pinterest user, you know it’s easy to lose track of time. Settle on a time close to lights-out (I’d suggest about an hour before) and stay on schedule. Make sure you give yourself enough time to shut off your electronics, put your kids to bed (if applicable), perform your bed-time ritual, and do anything else you need to do.