Everyone loves daylight saving time—in the fall at least, when it means an extra hour of sleep. But doesn’t it sometimes seem like it takes no time at all before you’re back in the same sleep-deprived rut?
When you’re unusually stressed by the obligations of life, it may seem smart to stay up later and get more done. But cutting back on sleep compromises your ability to concentrate when awake. It also makes it harder to deal with stressful situations. Luckily, with a little effort, you can make a good night’s sleep a reality—anytime of the year. The key is to make it a priority. Here’s how to get more sleep.
1. Consume caffeine wisely. Some of us really love our coffee. But at what point in the day can an espresso—or an energy drink or caffeinated soda—start to interfere with a good night’s sleep? For a long time, the answer was anyone’s guess. But researchers at Michigan’s Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders & Research Center and Wayne State College of Medicine analyzed the sleep-disruptive effects of caffeine consumption at different lengths of time before bedtime. They discovered that caffeine consumed even six hours before bedtime resulted in significantly diminished sleep quality and quantity. Beware of hidden caffeine, too. A dark chocolate bar, for example, has almost as much caffeine as a can of Coke.
2. Choose the right after-dinner snacks. Foods high in refined sugar can trigger an insulin release that interferes with the hormones that affect sleep. Instead, choose a snack low in sugar and fat and high in fiber. A few good choices are bananas, cheese and crackers, trail mix and popcorn. Also, make sure that you’re neither overly full or hungry when you go to bed. Both can interfere with sleep.
3. Power down. It may seem like catching up on emails can give you a jump on the next day, but research shows it can have just the opposite effect by negatively affecting your sleep and making you less than your best the next day. When you respond to an email, play a video game or even check Facebook, your brain revs up, which is not at all the way you want to feel right before trying to sleep. Instead, make it a point to turn off all devices at least 15 minutes before going to bed.
4. Soak in the sunlight. One study found that, compared to workers in windowless offices, those with windows received 173 percent more natural white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night. So what to do if you work in a cube farm? Or a windowless factory? Your best bet is to sneak in sunlight when and where you can. Maybe you start your day by walking your dog around the block. Depending on the season, you can enjoy your morning coffee outside in the sunlight. Even a 5-minute walk at lunchtime can help.
5. Set a sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends, reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
6. Get moving. For people who generally sleep well, exercise does not seem to have much of an effect on sleep. But for those who suffer from insomnia, one study found that working out leads to about 45 minutes more of sleep a night.
7. Clear your mind. We’ve all done it. You go to bed and start thinking immediately of what you need to do tomorrow. For many people, the easiest way to put those thoughts aside is to write them down on a list for the next day. Keeping a pen and notepad on your nightstand is an easy step to take that helps many people fall asleep with the peace of mind that they have a plan for the next day.
While most people can improve their quality of sleep in many ways, true insomnia often requires medical help to conquer. Is your quality of life suffering from a severe lack of sleep? Call us today at 419-668-5537 to schedule an appointment at our sleep center.