8 tips toward a better night’s sleep

I get that sleep routines and sleep retraining isn’t exactly a riveting topic, but it the importance of regular sleep cannot be overstated. If you fall asleep just reading this post then, hey–you’re welcome.  If you make it to the end, then you can try these suggestions to retrain your sleep.

****************this is not meant to take the place of  individual clinical advice, and is generally accepted first step toward sleep retraining. If you are unable to retrain your sleep, speak to your doctor to test for other parasomnias such as sleep apnia***********

1. Start with when you want to wake up.

You’d think that the best way to reset sleep is by trying to go to bed early, and it does work well for some people. Others may find it easier to start in the morning.  What you’re gonna want to do is decide what time you want to start getting up in the morning and then do whatever it takes to get up at that time. Set five alarms and actually get up when they go off. Ask a friend to call or come by to make sure that you get up.  Seriously, whatever it takes to get you up and moving, do that.  That night, go to sleep when you feel naturally tired. It may take a couple of weeks, but this will reset your sleep schedule in most cases.

2. Keep a bedtime routine

Once you have reset your schedule to the desired waking time, keep the schedule by keeping a bedtime routine. Our bodies release hormones to trigger sleep, and those hormones used to be cued by the setting sun. Since this is no longer the case, our behavior has to cue the brain that it’s getting close to bed time.  As it says in Jack’s bedtimes story “Time for a Hug”we “bathe brush floss and say goodnight.”

If you want to sleep at night, avoid naps

The 7-9 hours of sleep an adult needs is per 24 hour period. If you take naps during the day, the body counts it as the 7-9 hours, making it difficult to sleep at night. This is why polyphasic sleeping works. Most people want spend their nights sleeping, so try to avoid napping during the day.

3. Waking up in the middle of the night is pretty normal 

Before electricity, people went to bed when the sun went down. The period of darkness is longer than most of us need to sleep, so most people were biphasic sleepers.  They had a “short sleep” in the beginning of the night, a period of wakefulness, and a “long sleep.” During the period of wakefulness, people would journal, make love, write letters or have a light meal, or “midnight snack.”

So if you still have two periods of sleep, no worries!

4. Caffeine has a half life of six hours 

If you are caffeine sensitive, try to avoid it after 3pm. And remember– caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate and carbonated drinks. Even decaf coffee and tea have trace amounts of caffeine.

5. Avoid spicy foods, nicotine and alcohol

If spicy foods keep you up at night, avoid them while you’re getting your sleep back on track.

Nicotine activates the nervous system and so the body takes longer to fall asleep.

Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it decreases the quality of sleep and may cause you to wake up dehydrated.  Really, there are all sorts of problem associated with drinking too much. Try to keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum.

6. No screens in bed. 

If you have a habit of scrolling through social media sites like facebook, tumblr or pinterest to “relax” before going to sleep, then you may be keeping yourself awake. The the light from phones, tablets, computers and television mimics the light of day and can fool the brain into thinking that it’s time to start your day.

Some devices have the option to shift this blue light to orange light with a “night shift” feature.  Even in night shift, the types of apps we usually use while in bed (I’m looking at you, Facebook) are not helpful for sleep. These interactive sites stimulate the production of dopamine in the brain, and dopamine creates that drive to keep refreshing for new likes and comments or to keep clicking on Buzzfeed articles. This is no good for sleep.

Ideally, bed should only be for sleep and sex.

7. Allow yourself 30 minutes to fall asleep

It’s not helpful to lie in bed for hours trying to get to sleep. If you are unable to fall asleep within half an hour or so, get out of bed and do a (screenless) quiet activity like reading , journal writing or knitting or something until you begin to feel naturally tired. Avoid the temptation to go online or watch television.

8. Exercise is good,

but not right before bed. Regular exercise will make it easier to fall asleep, but try to end your work out at least 30 minutes before you plan on going to bed.

So that’s it. Eight tips for a better night’s sleep. I hope this was helpful. Good luck and sweet dreams!

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