Let’s continue the conversation about sleep, or a lack there of. As we discussed last week, tossing and turning all night can affect judgment, productivity, and the ability to retain information the next day. Over time, it can also contribute to obesity, diabetes, and, of course, a chronic bad attitude (did someone wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning??).Between work obligations and family life, it’s hardly easy to make “sleep more” the number-one item on the to-do list. The good news is that we don’t have to completely change our lifestyle — sometimes it’s as simple as turning off the computer a little earlier, replacing an old mattress, or even catching a few mid-day winks. Considerable research* has gone into developing a set of guidelines and tips to enhance good sleep, and there is much evidence to suggest that these strategies can provide both short and long-term solutions to help you snooze better tonight. Here are a few:
- Get regular. One of the best ways to train your body to sleep well is to go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day, even on weekends and days off! This regular rhythm will make you feel better and give your body something to work from.
- Get up & try again. If you haven’t been able to get to sleep after 20 minutes or more, get up and do something relaxing like reading a book or listening to calm music, then return to bed and try again. Try and avoid doing anything needing a bright light; this will confuse your brain and make it feel like it is time to wake up instead of wind down.
- Keep your caffeine fix to mornings or early afternoons. It is best to avoid consuming any caffeine (coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, and some medications) at least 4-6 hours prior to going to bed because for some people, its stimulating effects can last up to 10 hours.
- Avoid alcohol. Stop drinking 4-6 hours before going to bed. Many people believe that a glass of wine or cocktail in the evening is relaxing and helps them to get to sleep. While this may feel true, it will almost always wake you a couple of hours later and decrease your quality of sleep.
- Wind down. It’s important to take some time to unwind between shutting the computer screen and crawling under the covers. Try taking a warm shower or sipping some herbal tea. If nagging worries are keeping you awake, try writing them down in a journal.
- Turn Back the Time. Literally - face the alarm clock away from you. Watching time tick by can actually cause more stress and make it harder to fall asleep. Plus, artificial light from electronic gadgets can mess up our bodies’ natural rhythm, making them think that it’s party time, not sleepy time.
- Munch on magnesium. Research suggests magnesium plays a key role in our ability to sleep through the night. Try munching on magnesium-rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, nuts, low fat dairies, or a banana before bedtime.
- Move more. Regular exercise is a good idea to help decrease anxiety/stress and improve your quality of sleep. Just remember, it’s important to schedule workouts that end at least two hours before hitting the hay so that post-workout adrenaline boost doesn’t keep you up.
- Bath time. Research shows that sleepiness is associated with a drop in body temperature. Taking a hot bath or shower 1-2 hours before bedtime will raise your body temperature, causing you to feel sleepy as your body temperature drops again.
Take a small step today and try one of these simple strategies for better sleep. I guarantee you that you will thank yourself tomorrow!- Blair Blair RD, LDN, CHD, Director of Health Coaching*source: greatist.com