The end of daylight savings time allows us to ‘fall back’ an hour, and what better time than now to improve your sleep habits? A healthy sleep schedule offers endless benefits, including lower stress, healthier weight, better brain function, and a stronger immune system.
Here are 10 healthy sleep tips from the National Sleep Foundation*:
Maintain a regular bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends.
Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by a ‘circadian clock’ in our brain and the body’s need to balance both sleep time and wake time. Waking up at the same time every morning strengthens the body’s ability to onset sleep at the same time each night.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routines.
A relaxing routine before bed helps separate activity from sleep. Avoid stimulating activities and calming down before bed can ease the transition into deeper sleep. Also, avoid exposure to bright light like computer or phone screens before bedtime because it tells the neurons that help control the sleep-wake cycle that it is time to wake up, not to sleep.
- Create a sleep-friendly environment that is quiet, dark, and cool.
Make sure where you sleep has good conditions for rest– quiet, cool, dark, comfortable and free of interruptions. Consider using blackout curtains, white noise machines, humidifiers, etc.
- Use a comfortable and supportive mattress and pillow.
Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. Good quality mattresses last about 9 or 10 years, so it may be time for a replacement. Have comfortable pillows and make the room inviting for sleep.
Keep work out of the bedroom.
It is best to leave screens and work materials out of the sleeping environment, to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine. For example, if looking at a clock makes you anxious about how much time you have before you must get up, move the clock out of sight. Do not engage in activities that cause you anxiety and prevent you from sleeping.
- Make sure to finish eating 2-3 hours before bedtime.
It is best to avoid a heavy meal too close to bedtime, for eating or drinking too much can make it difficult to sleep well. Also, spicy foods may cause heartburn, which leads to difficulty falling asleep and discomfort during the night. Try to avoid drinking a lot of liquid before bed, as it may lead to waking up to use the bathroom during the night, unless a cup of warm milk or non-caffeinated tea is part of your wind-down bedtime routine.
- Routinely exercise.
Intense exercise is encouraged, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of sleep.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
Caffeine is a stimulant, and therefore interferes with sleep. Caffeinated beverages remain in the body on average from 3 to 5 hours, but they can affect some up to 12 hours later. Even if you feel that caffeine doesn’t affect you, it may be disrupting the quality of your sleep. Avoid caffeine within 6-8 hours of going to bed to help improve sleep quality.
Nicotine is also a stimulant, and smoking before bed makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Nicotine can cause difficulty falling asleep, problems waking in the morning, and may also cause nightmares. Plus, smokers experience withdrawal symptoms from nicotine, which also causes sleep problems. Difficulty sleeping is just one more reason to quit smoking!
- Avoid alcohol close to bedtime.
Though alcohol is a depressant, it actually disrupts sleep, causing nighttime awakenings. Consuming alcohol leads to lower quality sleep.
With the holidays soon approaching, use this time to catch up on rest and establish healthy sleep patterns. If you are having sleep problems, the Sleep Disorders Center at Rex has five locations throughout Wake County to help you get back on track!