In my previous post about the importance of sleep, I encouraged you to keep track of how much sleep you are getting. I have been using my activity monitor to track my sleep for the past couple months. I am able to see how many hours of sleep I average per night. When I get less sleep, it’s usually because I get in bed late. Holidays and vacations can disturb daily routines, such as bedtimes. Missing out on a party or other holiday event may not seem appealing, but sometimes we have to make compromises with ourselves. Consider leaving an hour earlier than you would normally, or taking a nap beforehand.
Even if we can get in bed at a decent hour, many people suffer from occasional or chronic insomnia. From as far back as I can remember, I have usually had difficulty falling asleep. I know others who find it hard to stay asleep. A few simple lifestyle adjustments could be the solution. Here are a few tips I have found useful if you are looking to improve your sleep hygiene.
Watch What You Drink and Eat
Caffeine is effective in keeping you alert in the morning, but it will interrupt the flow of melatonin, the well-known sleep-inducing hormone. If you are feeling sleepy in the afternoon, try getting up and moving around, or eating a healthy snack, like fruit or nuts. Also, sugary junk foods can interfere with sleep. If you are craving a snack before bed, try carb-rich foods that promote sleep, which include yogurt and fruit.
Better sleep quality is just one of the many benefits of exercise. The body’s temperature drops after exercise, which promotes sleep. Also, exercise can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms that can trigger insomnia. However, avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime. Instead, consider movement that promotes relaxation, such as yoga and simple stretching.
Power Off Electronics
The light from your computer or smartphone screen can delay the release of melatonin, inhibiting sleep. Computer and TV time can also be stimulating activities. Consider downloading a bluelight filter app on your devices and turning them off an hour before bed. Try performing an activity that you find relaxing, such as reading or journaling, and you will be preparing your mind and body for bed.
Create an environment where your body and mind can wind down. Keep your bedroom dark and cool. While many people prefer quiet, there are others who sleep best when listening to calming music or soundtracks. You can also try aromatherapy. Lavender and chamomile are two sleep-promoting scents. Finally, invest in a comfortable mattress. Your sleep is worth it!
Of course, everyone’s body is different; so you may not experience results with all of them, but I encourage you to test any of these techniques. You can make notes in your sleep log and track how your body responds to any adjustments you make. In my case, I find that lavender essential oil in the diffuser and on the bottoms of my feet help me relax before bed.
Prioritizing your sleep is prioritizing your overall health. As we get deeper into the cold and flu season, our bodies will need to be as strong as they can to defend against illness. Also, sleep and mood are closely connected. With more gloomy, cold weather in the forecast for many of us and the stress of the holidays, getting enough sleep can help enhance our emotional well-being and deter anxiety or depression. Why wait? Try getting good sleep tonight. Your body and mind will thank you!