Is sleep an issue?I’ve lost count of how many times daily I hear this concern. And here’s the straight and skinny: If we don’t routinely have a quality 7 to 8 hour night of sleep it’s game over. We’ve all experienced the tiredness and lack of clarity that comes from a sleepless night, but a study published last year by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology Foundation found that sleep schedule inconsistency is also a risk factor for heart disease. If we don’t prioritize our sleep as critical to our overall health –nothing else falls into place. Trust me, I’ve seen it too many times. Small changes to your sleep routine can make a big difference. Read on for my top tips for how to get the most out of your night (and a few tips thrown in at the end on how to get your day started right.)
Your bed is for sex and sleep only. Listen to your body, including the signals sent by our sleep hormone melatonin. If you are still awake 20 to 30 minutes after you’ve tucked yourself in bed, get up and read in a chair, preferably in a different room entirely. It’s more important for you to sleep properly for 5 hours of sleep rather than poorly for 8 hours. When you feel fatigue coming on, don’t fight sleep, get yourself to bed and resist staying up for “that one more item on my to-do list.”
Set up a sleep ritual. If you have a routine down before you get into bed, don’t change it, even if your schedule has fluctuated. Cultivating and safeguarding your personal ritual allows your body to prepare for sleep, sending it consistent signals night after night that you are going to bed.
Did I mention routine? Keep a regular sleep schedule. Try to keep regular bedtime and wake-up times, again putting your body into a routine which equates to better sleep.
The temperature in your room should be moderate. The ideal temperature for a good night’s sleep is 64°F, because your body needs to cool down in order to fall asleep. Fresh air and adequate ventilation also allow you to breathe better during the night.
This one may come as a surprise! Avoid hot showers before going to bed. Do not take a hot bath or shower just prior to going to bed. This raises your body temperature and may delay you falling asleep.
Turn off lights and noise before bed. Night lights on our electronic devices are not our friend. Noise and light can disturb your sleep in addition to keeping you from falling asleep. Create your cave and isolate yourself from outside noise and light.
Duh… Avoid overeating at dinner. Don’t eat too much before you fall asleep. Meals that have too much meat, in particular, can increase alertness, and you may wake up in the middle of the night. On the other hand, certain foods may help you fall asleep: consider having hot herbal decaf tea or almond milk before going to bed.
Be active during the day. As a rule, my patients that exercise routinely have less difficulty initiating sleep. However, I always remind them to be careful to keep an interval of 4 hours between their last physical activity and bedtime—that actually can put falling asleep easily at risk.
I’m on a roll so here are some wakeup tips for good measure:
Waking Up Tips
Wake up to light.Exposure to natural or artificial light promotes wakefulness. Open the shutters or use a dawn simulator to wake up gently. Enjoy daylight outside for at least 1/2 hour every morning.
Stretch when you wake up. Just as my trainer (the famous Ana Carroll of Victoria) chides me at the gym; warm up and stretching are essential to protect your body. When you wake up, warm up. The body cools down during the night and needs to warm up to wake up properly. Stretch out, shake, and take a shower or a hot drink.
Practice gratitude. I ask my patients to think of at least two things every morning that they are grateful for.This can be as simple as their good health or thanking God for allowing us to have another day. Just stop and not only smell the roses, but take time to appreciate that feeling–It sets the stage for a great day.
So if you’re having trouble falling—or staying asleep—consider making a few changes to your nightly (and morning) routine. These simple tips could make all the difference.
All my best,
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