Catherine Graham is a guest blogger and the Wellness Coordinator at Eskaton Support Center.
I was talking with a co-worker this morning about what a great weekend it was – the weather was good and there was plenty of toilet paper in the house. My colleague was not quite as chipper about her weekend, unfortunately. She said that she felt sore and tired, and she hadn’t slept well. In fact, she said that she always has trouble sleeping. We talked for a bit about what’s keeping her up at night and together, we found some things she can change in her nighttime routine to help her relax and prepare for sleep.
Sleep is a huge part of what keeps us healthy and feeling “normal”. Studies have found that 30% of adults sleep fewer than 6 hours each night and poor sleep quality (waking in the middle of the night, not feeling rested after 7 or 8 hours of sleep) affects a person’s overall health and well-being in the form of weight gain, high blood pressure, and decreased immune function. With the spring pollen whipping all around us (not to mention that we’re in the middle of a pandemic), increasing one’s immunity is a major reason to evaluate your sleep patterns to see if you need to make changes in your nighttime routine.
Here are 8 tips to help you get better sleep at night:
Tip #1 – Increasing your exposure to natural sunlight or bright light during the day will help keep your circadian rhythm on point. Getting out in the sunshine or being around a bright light exposure will give you energy during the day when you need it, and helps your sleep quality at night.
Tip #2 – Reduce blue light exposure in the evening. Blue light from your TV, computer, and phone tricks your brain into thinking it is still daylight. Wear glasses that block blue light (there are apps you can download to block blue light, too), and turn off your electronic devices a couple hours before you go to bed. Read a book or magazine (you know, the kind with pages that you turn), or listen to music, a podcast, or an audio book if you need some background noise.
Tip #3 – Make it a rule to stay away from caffeine after 3pm. Caffeine can stay elevated in your blood for 6-8 hours, so steer clear of coffee or caffeinated sodas. Better choices are decaf coffee and sodas, and if you want a quick boost of energy, a great choice is water infused with fruit such as strawberries or lemon!
Tip #4 – Leave the 2 hour naps to the babies. Studies have shown that while a short power nap can enhance daytime brain function, longer naps compromise sleep quality.
Tip #5 – Stick to a sleep routine. Sunrise and sunset are markers of time that let your body know that it’s time to prepare for sleep or time to wake. Getting into a regular sleep pattern of going to bed at the same time and waking at the same time (yes, even on the weekends) helps regulate your circadian rhythm and melatonin levels.
Tip #6 – Skip the alcohol. Alcohol is known to increase the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring, and disrupted sleep patterns. Alcohol also affects the regulation of melatonin levels.
Tip #7 – Prepare your bedroom for sleep. Minimize external noise, light, and artificial lights from devices like alarm clocks, TVs, and even power strips with light-up buttons. Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, relaxing, clean, and enjoyable place.
Tip #8 – Stay cool. Have you ever tried to get to sleep in the middle of a heat wave? It’s not easy to do. Studies have shown that the bedroom temperature affects sleep. The jury is still out on the perfect room temp for the most optimal sleep, but most people seem to agree that around 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit is just right.
We hope you found this information helpful, and you’re on your way to more restful sleep! For more tips on how to support your health and well-being, visit our Wellness 101 page on the Eskaton website.