Tell the truth – did you need an extra jolt of java this morning? If you’re draggin’ your wagon today there’s a good reason. Losing that extra hour of sleep is a tough adjustment for many, the effects of which are similar to the jetlag experienced by travelers flying from, say, Denver to Chicago. The problem is that your return flight – or the return to standard time – is not for another eight months, so the sooner you can adjust your internal clock to Daylight Saving Time, the better.
Of course, that adaptation time is greatly reduced if you manage to get plenty of sleep in the nights preceding and immediately after the time change. However, if for you, sound sleep is an elusive luxury, you’re in for a little grogginess.
Sleep deprivation is known to cause a host of problems, including diminished cognitive function and memory, depression, decreased immunity, heart disease, slow response and reaction time leading to accidents, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, premature signs of aging, weight gain, and poor judgment. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly in order to maintain peak physical and mental health. Unfortunately, few of us get that much shut-eye. If you’re looking for help in getting and staying asleep at night, look no further. Here are ten tips that will lead you to the discovery of Planet ZZZ:
- Exercise daily – the earlier in the day the better. In a recent study at Appalachian State University, participants who ran on treadmills for a half hour at 7 a.m. experienced better quality sleep at night than those who exercised at mid-day or in the evening. Strenuous exercise within a couple of hours of bedtime tends to keep some people awake.
- Be consistent. Try to go to bed and wake up at about the same times every day and avoid straying from those times by more than an hour on the weekends.
- Manage your melatonin by controlling your light exposure. Light slows the secretion of melatonin, a sleep inducing substance produced by the pineal gland. So you’ll want to expose yourself to light as much as possible by day. But try dimming the lights around the house and in your bedroom an hour before bedtime. Also, install a nightlight in your bathroom so that you don’t have to turn on the lights in the middle of the night when making a pit stop.
- Keep the bedroom temperature comfortable. Most people sleep best in a room on the cool side – around 65° F.
- Create a bedtime routine in which you begin winding down 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Relax with a good book or magazine, or listen to soothing music. Try some deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation techniques. Avoid using electronic devices including your laptop, television, smart phone or tablet at bedtime, as the lights from these devices will keep you awake (see number 3 above), and television noise tends to stimulate the mind.
- Avoid eating a large or high-fat meal within two hours of bedtime, but don’t go to bed hungry either. If necessary, have a small snack before bedtime so that hunger pangs don’t awaken you in the middle of the night.
- Limit caffeine to 300 mg a day and avoid caffeinated beverages and energy drinks within eight hours of bedtime.
- Trade in that lumpy old mattress and worn out pillow. If you tend to awaken frequently during the night or feel stiff and sore in the morning, it may be time to invest in a new mattress. There are many factors that determine a mattress’s lifespan, but generally speaking most are good for seven to eight years. After that their overall comfort and support decreases.
- Avoid drinking alcohol before bedtime, as it tends to reduce sleep quality. Drinking a little water before bed is good, but drinking voluminous liquids of any kind just prior to bedtime will result in the need for frequent bathroom trips during the night.
- Get up out of bed if you can’t get to sleep. Try reading or listening to soft music for a little while in another room. Lying awake in bed will lead to frustration, which will cause you to stay awake even longer.
If you tend to think of a good night’s sleep as something optional, think again. It’s every bit as important to your overall health as a well-balanced food diet and daily physical activity. Make it a priority – starting tonight!