In today’s society, so many of us are constantly on the go from one thing to the next. We stay up late finishing projects, catching up on television shows or surfing social media on our phones. The days of rising with the sun and retiring with the sun are long gone. In a time where we are living with more stress than ever before, sleep is even more important than ever before. Sleep is essential to optimal health.
1 in 3 Americans are not getting enough sleep according to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), with the recommendation being 7 hours of sleep per night. Just like any recommendation, this is a per case basis as you may require more or less than 7 hours per night. You may feel your best with 9 hours where someone else may feel great with 7 hours. Finding the number of hours that works for you is important. A few signs that you may be lacking sleep are:
- You get drowsy in the afternoon
- You are moody
- Your weight won’t budge, despite efforts
- You have difficulty handling stressful situations
- You crave carbohydrates and sugar throughout the day
- You have become less productive
Do any of these signs sound familiar? To improve your sleep and to ensure you are getting enough of it, it is important to make changes to your daily routine, not just your bedtime routine. Below is a list of changes to consider when trying to improve your quantity and quality of sleep.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages after 2 pm, especially if you have difficulty falling asleep.
- Avoid vigorous exercising later in the evening, exercise increases cortisol, which should be higher in the morning and decrease throughout the day.
- Be more aware of your light exposure. Expose yourself to sunlight in the morning hours, try to use natural light in your work/home space, get outside frequently, dim the lights at night, and sleep in pitch black/dark room.
- Establish a bedtime routine and get in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Go to bed around the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day. Avoid or limit screen time an hour before bed. Also, you should stop eating an hour before bed. I suggest you find a routine that works for you. For example, taking a shower before bedtime or brushing your teeth and writing in a journal. In the end it all comes down to personal preference. As another suggestion you should do something to help you relax, such as guided meditation, listening to calming music or taking a warm bath.
- Improve your sleeping environment by keeping noise to a minimum. Use a sound machine or fan to mask unwanted noises. Keep the temperature slightly cool, around 65 degrees. Keep the room dark, use black out curtains and cover lights from electronic devices. Make sure your bed is comfortable.
Do not underestimate the power of sleep. Adequate sleep can get you closer to a life of optimal wellness, along with proper nutrition, staying hydrated, being physically active, and establishing a self-care routine. Happy sleeping.
Jamey, NTP, CPT