Strategies to "fall back" on for better sleep
Ready to "fall back" this Sunday, November 5th? This upcoming weekend, we'll be able to get an extra hour of shut eye thanks to Daylight Savings Time (DST).
If you're like me, each fall, DST leaves you daydreaming about what it'd be like to have an extra hour of sleep every night... ah, yes, that would be nice.
But, that isn't reality... nope. So, in an attempt to reap the benefits of more sleep while being more realistic, I find DST a great time to revisit the importance of sleep and review strategies to "fall back" on for better sleep.
The Importance of Sleep
Poor sleep has been linked to problems with...
- Emotions (like depression, anxiety, and irritability)
- Hormones that affect our appetite and metabolism
- Cardiovascular health (like high blood pressure and irregular heart beat)
- Immune system function
- Safety (increased likelihood to have driving accidents and medical mishaps)
... whew! Sleep is soooooo important!
Proper sleep habits are essential for any healthy lifestyle. Here are some suggestions that I often give my clients who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep:
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, alcohol, heavy meals, and exercise late in the day.
- Avoid bright lights (think TV, computer, tablet, cell phone) before going to sleep because they stimulate the brain.
- Avoid napping during the day.
- Make your bedroom as comfortable as possible: adjust temperature and lighting so they do not disturb your sleep, and minimize noise as much as possible. Use an eye mask and earplugs if necessary.
- Do not use your bed in the daytime or for working, reading, or watching TV. This allows your brain to associate your bed with sleep only and not with other activities.
- If you have trouble falling asleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back to sleep, get out of bed and do something soothing until you feel tired enough to go back to sleep. Don't lie in bed thinking about other things; this will only make you feel more aggravated and make it more difficult to get back to sleep. Some examples: read a book, have a light snack, use progressive muscle relaxation, try mindful breathing, or listen to public radio at a low volume (public radio, like BBC or NPR, is a good choice because there is little fluctuation in voice tone or volume so it won't stimulate your brain).
- Create a bedtime routine. Use relaxation methods before going to bed in order to calm your body and mind: take a bath, drink chamomile tea, meditate, pray, journal, use paced breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, use an app like "Calm," and so on.
- Create a sleep schedule and stick to it. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This creates a sleep cycle that your body can predict.
If you try these sleep strategies out and your sleep problems persist - if you can't stay awake during the day, if you can't fall asleep and/or stay asleep, or if you're feeling depressed, contact a medical professional for help.
Enjoy that extra hour of sleep this weekend!