What Are Your Sleep Habits? 8 Tips For Better Z's!
Optimal health includes good sleep habits…sleep affects just about every aspect of our well-being from alertness and concentration to metabolism to mood and immune system.
Our sleep/wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is like an internal clock which is controlled by the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain. The circadian rhythm tends to match the lightness and darkness of the day…the eyes signal the brain which signals the body to release melatonin in order to make the body feel tired and ready for rest. Outside factors (such as daylight savings and jet lag) can affect the circadian rhythm which is why it operates best with consistent sleep habits.
As we age, our circadian rhythm can change. We tend to need the same amount of sleep, 7-9 hours according to the Mayo Clinic, but we sleep lighter and for shorter time spans which means we’ll need a nap or two.
Here are some tips for supporting your circadian rhythm and getting a better night’s rest…
Regular exercise is the #1 best way to improve sleep! During daytime hours is usually best…working out in the late evening can affect your circadian rhythm by introducing energizing endorphins. Everyone is different, though, so pay attention to your body and do what’s best for you!
Get more light during the daytime to stimulate your energy in the daytime…sunlight is best but artificial bright lights work too. This will improve your readiness to fall asleep at nighttime.
Avoid caffeine after 12-noon. Caffeine lingers in our system for as long as 6-8 hours after consumption. If you feel sleepy in the afternoon try drinking a glass of water or taking a brisk walk.
Limit exposure to electronic devices before bed. The blue light from TVs, smartphones, and laptops stimulates the wake cycle by tricking the brain into believing it’s daytime, thereby reducing release of the sleep hormone melatonin. Instead of scrolling through social media before bedtime, try reading a book, meditating, or deep breathing.
Get on track with regular bedtime and wake-up times (even on weekends). This will help boost your circadian rhythm for long-term sleep quality.
Reduce light and noise in the bedroom. If you have traffic sounds out your window try a white noise machine to drown it out. Close drapes/blinds to block out streetlights and turn the alarm clock around so the light doesn’t interfere with your circadian rhythm.
Ideally dinner should be finished by 7pm in order to allow for full digestion before bedtime. Eating a large meal and then going to sleep can disturb both sleep quality and digestion. Eating snacks late at night can also impact sleep quality.
If you have a hard time falling asleep because of ruminating thoughts or playing back the day’s events try guided meditation or gentle yoga before sleep. You can also try journaling to empty the thoughts from your mind. Or start an evening reflection practice.
Final thought: know when to call your doctor! If you have trouble sleeping contact your physician to rule out any underlying issues. Addressing sleeplessness sooner than later will be easier to manage.