Getting adequate sleep on a regular basis can transform your health and happiness. Conversely, a lack of sleep can impact your mental focus, hormone levels, stress management abilities, and more. Uncovering the root causes of your sleep irregularities will allow you to come up with a concrete strategy for improving your restfulness over time. Consider the following practices for monitoring your natural sleep cycles and working with them to your benefit.
Planning a Sleep Schedule
Begin by determining a set bedtime and wake up time. Your body will struggle to adapt to a healthy sleep pattern unless you wake up at the same time every day. Decide how much sleep you need to feel rested and work backwards to specify an appropriate bedtime. These parameters, while seemingly strict, will give structure to your self-regulation attempts until they are no longer a central concern for your wellness.
It is important to work with seasonal changes throughout the year. Our sleep systems are directly influenced by sunlight, which may vary greatly by season depending on where you live. Sleep hormones are induced sooner on winter days because of the earlier sunset. Try correlating your sleep schedule with these natural rhythms. Choosing a bedtime within two hours of sundown will allow you to harmonize with your body and its intrinsic circadian clock. As a result, you may find yourself sleeping much more during the winter, which can set you up for a busy summer down the road.
Ultimately, making enough time for a good night's sleep requires that you examine how you use your waking hours. If you are over-committed during the day, you will probably find it difficult to wind down when necessary, or you may start waking up earlier than you'd like to. Balancing rest with work is central to long-term well being. Once again, it may be helpful to free up your calendar on a seasonal basis, so that you are taking on more activities when there is more sunlight to keep you going, and vice versa.
Promoting Sleep While You're Awake
Exercise has countless benefits for the regulation of homeostasis in our bodies, including sleep cycles. Prioritizing at least thirty minutes of exercise a day can ensure that you will feel naturally fatigued when the evening comes. Exercising outdoors has a doubly potent effect, since it exposes you to the natural sunlight that governs your circadian rhythms. It is worth nothing that some people experience an increase in adrenaline after exercise, and they find that working out later in the day can cause a delay in sleepiness. Pay attention to your own responses to exercise at different times, and create a routine that suits you.
If you find that you need to take a nap, try to limit it to twenty minutes. Napping late in the afternoon or evening can completely throw off your sleep cycle, so avoid doing so later than 1pm if possible. Once you start to glean the rewards of deep sleep every night, you will likely find that you stop craving that nap in order to get through the day.
Another habit to pay attention to is that of caffeine and alcohol intake. Everyone is different in this regard, and your body might change its response as you age. With caffeine, the impacts can range from extreme insomnia and increased heart rate to mild restlessness, or no apparent effect whatsoever. Of course, the more you drink throughout the day, the greater influence it will have on your system.
The same can be said for alcohol, which induces drowsiness. Having too much can lead to an intense crash, and you might even wake up in the middle of the night from dehydration. Ultimately, mindful consumption of each of these beverage types – and enough water to offset them – will lead to healthier sleep patterns in the long run.
Creating a Relaxing Environment
Perhaps the most satisfying method for traveling to slumberland is that of turning your bedroom into a sleep haven. Providing yourself with an atmosphere that encourages relaxation will practically "trick" your system into knowing when sweet dreams are on the horizon. You may have to transform your bedroom altogether, but have fun with it! This is the part where you get to design a space that makes you feel cozy and peaceful.
Start by updating your mattress, pillows, and bedding if necessary. Strive for maximum comfort based on your individual needs and preferences. If you are pregnant, for example, you may need to add extra pillows for support, or implement some of these other pregnancy sleep tips to optimize your nightly rest.
Even if you feel that your pillows and mattress are a good fit, treating yourself to new sheets and blankets can add a desirable character to your bed, potentially leading to a calm and content anticipation of a good night's sleep rather than a sense of dread. Weighted blankets are wonderful for people who like to feel an extra sense of security and solace while drifting off.
Be sure to keep the lights down low and the temperature cool. Harsh light is not relaxing, and being overheated in the middle of the night is not a pleasant feeling! You can supplement this tranquil ambience with herbal remedies like lavender oil in a diffuser, and soft instrumental music in the background.
All of these wonderful upgrades may tempt you towards hanging out in your bed doing other things, but it's worthwhile to restrict its use for sleep and sex alone. If you're lying in bed doing anything else, you might notice more difficulty falling asleep when the time is right.
Sticking to a Routine
Building a pre-bedtime routine is an excellent way to cultivate deeper sleep. Spend at least half an hour winding down in a designated area outside of your bedroom. Reading under a soft lamp, yin yoga, deep breathing and meditation are all great examples of relaxation techniques that will quiet your mind as you prepare to tuck yourself in. Decreasing your stress levels in this way invites the function of your parasympathetic nervous system to switch into rest and digest mode, signaling your brain and body that deep sleep is ahead.
Last yet certainly not least of all, limiting your technology use before bed is essential to a healthy routine. Turn off your devices completely as you transition into your wind down activities. This will prevent the blue light of your screens from disrupting sleep hormone regulation, and it will clear up mental and emotional space related to work, relationships and finances.
Fostering a solid sleep schedule takes real dedication, yet it is profoundly enriching overall. By tracking your habits and modifying them appropriately, you are doing yourself a huge favor. Good luck, and sweet dreams!
Download Alaska Sleep Clinic's free sleep journal to keep track of your sleep issues for you and your physician to go over.