Daytime Steps For Better Night Time Sleep
The facts are pretty stark. Over one in three American adults are not getting the minimum recommendation of at least seven hours of sleep per night.
Lack of sleep causes more than just fatigue. Sleep deprivation contributes to auto and industrial accidents; it reduces your brain’s ability to process ideas, affects your memory, elevates blood pressure and cardiovascular risk, and has been linked to weight gain and diabetes.
Finding enough time for a full night’s sleep is hard enough, which makes sleep preparation even more critical so you don’t waste precious night time hours tossing and turning.
The first steps toward a good night’s sleep starts long before you get in bed. Even a perfect sleep environment can’t overcome other sub-par choices made earlier in the day. On the other hand, good sleep preparation can help minimize the effect of less-than-ideal sleep environments.
Here are a few daytime items to consider that can help improve your night time sleep quality.
On top of its many other benefits, moderate exercise can help you fall asleep faster and sleep longer.
During exercise the body’s core temperature increases, followed by a fall in core temperature that occurs within an hour or two of ending exercise. This core temperature drop starts sending sleep signals to the body.
You can benefit from moderate exercise at almost any time of day, but you should avoid working out within two hours of bedtime (maybe even a little longer than that for more intense exercise). Otherwise, the increased endorphins may keep your brain in a “wired” state and the rest of your body will still want to be awake, due to an elevated core temperature.
Diet / Caffeine
What we eat and drink can have a big impact on our ability to get quality sleep.
The most common diet issue that impacts sleep quality is caffeine. While caffeine can give you a quick energy boost, it also has a half-life of about five hours in the human bloodstream. That means if you have a strong cup of coffee with 100mg of caffeine at 4pm, 50mg is still in your bloodstream at 9pm, and 25mg remains at 2am. This effect is compounded when you consume multiple products with caffeine throughout the day.
Food can also have an impact on sleep. Eating right before bedtime can cause both sleep and digestive issues. Diets high in sugar and simple carbohydrates can artificially boost your energy and make it hard to fall asleep. A vicious cycle can occur where sleep-deprived people crave more food due to low levels of an appetite hormone known as leptin.
Eating a well-balanced diet and cutting out caffeine after lunch time is a great first step toward getting a better night’s sleep.
Screen Time / Blue Light Exposure
Exposure to digital screens (whether TVs, computers or phones) can have a detrimental effect on your brain’s ability to fall asleep. The main reason behind this is the short-wavelength blue light that is produced by these screens. Blue light exposure suppresses the release of the sleep-producing hormone melatonin.
Minimizing or eliminating screen use within a certain period before bed is the best approach, but this can obviously be challenging. It may not be realistic to have a device-free evening, but the longer you can go without screen time before bed, the better off you’ll be. Even turning off screens a half hour before bed can make a positive difference.
If you cannot avoid screens during the evening, many devices have a night setting that reduces or eliminates blue light exposure. This can be a good middle ground approach if you can’t completely abstain from screens for several hours before bed. It can also be incorporated into a hybrid strategy (for example, no screens one hour before bed and use blue light blocking settings starting two hours before bed).
Now that you’ve prepared to get a good night’s sleep, it’s time to consider the environment in which you’re sleeping. In our next article, we’ll talk about strategies for creating the best bedroom setup to capitalize on your sleep preparation. Stay tuned!
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