So you didn't get a wink of sleep last night and now you need more sleep, and you’re heading into another work meeting praying you’ll stay awake. Once you’ve made it through the day (painfully) it comes time to snuggle into bed, but sleep is not happening. Before too long you start playing math games with yourself… “If I fall asleep now, I’ll get 5 hours of sleep…. OK if I fall asleep now, I’ll get 4 hours and 55 minutes of sleep…”
If this is familiar to you, then there are some simple strategies you can use to help you get more sleep starting tonight.
A big part of how you sleep has nothing to do with night. What you do during the day and the hours leading up to bedtime will trump any final ditch effort you make to snooze when the time comes.
- Go light at night. Eating a big meal before bed, especially one high in carbs or fat. Carbs may give you a jolt of energy, while fat will likely give you heart burn.
- Skip the nightcap. While it may sound relaxing, alcohol actually keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep. You may fall asleep easier, but you’ll probably find yourself tossing and turning throughout the night.
- Avoid the energy drinks. You may toss back a few Monsters on the way to work but you’ll be surprised to know that caffeine could still be coursing through your system 12 hours later! Skip it all together or cut back during the day.
- Break a sweat. As little as 20 to 30 minutes of exercise a day means better sleep at night.
It’s All In the Routine
A regular routine is huge when it comes to bedtime. Chances are you know these things but just neglect to actually do them.
- Regular bedtime. Same place. Same time. Every night. Do it.
- Wake up the same time every day. You read the tip above? Repeat here
- Make like a toddler and nap. If you need to nap, be smart about it – early afternoon, 30 minutes max.
Getting scientific here. Your body makes a hormone called melatonin that plays a huge role in your sleep-wake cycles. Even though it is naturally made in the body there’s a catch – it’s controlled by light. Crazy, huh? So when you are in a lighted room or in the sun your body produces less of this hormone, keeping you awake. Therefore, if you are exposing yourself to a lot of light in the evening, you may be disrupting your body’s ability to slow down, relax, and fall asleep.
- See the light. During the day make an effort to take in some natural light. It can be tough in the winter or if you are stuck inside all day but just 10 minutes can make a difference. Take a break outside, or even stand by a window for a while. All these things can help you sleep better at night.
- Wind Down. It’s easy to spend the entire evening glued to the tv, especially during March Madness, but this could be keeping you awake even longer. There is also evidence that backlit devices (think phones, iPad, and computers) produce enough light to keep your brain from producing melatonin.
Set the Mood
You've exercise, you've avoided caffeine, you got outside, and you've done it all right. Now it’s time to set the right mood if you’re going to get a good night’s sleep. Not sure what to do? Try some of these sandman strategies:
- Read a book using a soft light.
- Do some easy stretches
- If you have trouble falling asleep in total silence instead of the tv, opt for a sound machine or soft music. There are even free apps you can download lulling you to sleep with white noise.
- Keep your room cool – 65 degrees is the optimal temp
- Make sure your bed is comfy – not too hard and not too soft.
You’ve got all the tools in the toolbox now it’s time to use them. By being more mindful and proactive with your sleep habits you are guaranteed to make it through that work meeting a little easier.