Here Are The Top 5 Tips For Getting A Good Night's Sleep– And Why You Need to Know Them!
Happy November! Halloween is over and the holiday season has unofficially begun!
The weather is getting cooler, holiday music is playing everywhere, and Christmas decorations are up in all the stores. Most people are beginning to worry about (umm, cough, prepare for) all the celebrating and family togetherness that comes along this time of year.
One thing you can do to make sure the next two months go as smoothly as possible is to get enough sleep.
Start practicing some good sleep habits now, so that when things get really crazy – last minute runs to the mall for that gift you forgot, staying up all night baking those cookies you promised you’d bring, or assembling that IKEA guest room bed …– you will have the psychic and physical energy to meet the challenges.
Why is it so important to get enough sleep?
Because lack of sleep doesn’t just make you tired – it can make you depressed, irritable and slow.
Science has shown that sleep deprivation can lead to “emotional instability, anxiety, and confusion”. Additionally, lack of sleep can affect your ability to think clearly and to be alert and attentive.
A good night’s sleep is always important for our emotional and physical health, but during the holidays our emotional and mental health have many additional stressors, so it just makes sense to prepare by being caught up on our sleep from the beginning.
How much sleep do I actually need?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends 8-10 hours for teenagers and 7-9 hours for adults. You can check this chart for information on sleep needs for all age groups.
How can you know what your specific sleep needs are? A good rule of thumb is that you are getting enough sleep if you can wake up without an alarm and make it through the day without reaching for that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon.
If this is not true for you, as it isn’t for the majority of Americans (40% get only 6 hours of sleep or less!), then you would benefit from improving your sleep hygene.
What is sleep hygene?
Sleep hygene refers to the routines and behavior that lead to a good night’s sleep.
This weekend is the ending of Daylight Savings Time, so set your clocks back on Saturday night and use the extra hour in your day to begin a new routine that will keep you happier and healthier this holiday season!
Here Are the Top 5 Tips For You To Get a Better Night’s Sleep:
1. Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible.
Think about how easy it is to sleep late in a hotel room with blackout curtains– that is the effect you are going for here. Make sure there are no LED lights showing– leave computers and phones in another room at night; turn your alarm clock toward the wall.
2. Make sure your bedroom is the right temperature– 60 to 68 degrees.
We sleep better when the room is cool, and our body temperature drops, but we need to keep our extremities warm, so wear a pair of warm socks or put a hot water bottle at the bottom of the bed if you need it.
3. Use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex.
If you train your brain that when you are in the bedroom you are going to sleep, it will respond accordingly. This is sometimes inconvenient, but true. If you are a guy, you are doubly lucky, because sex releases hormones that make you want to sleep afterward.
4. Eliminate anything involving a screen 60-90 minutes before bed.
This is often the hardest suggestion to implement. Many of us are used to winding down with a spin through our social media accounts, or watching a few episodes of our favorite show on Netflix. Unfortunately, though it may feel like we are giving our brains a rest when we “wind down” for the evening in front of a screen, the truth is that the opposite actually happens.
Our brains are affected by the quality of light they receive in the evening. There is neuroscience behind this– yellow, orange, and red light tell our brains it is time to produce melatonin, which, in turn, tells the body to begin its sleep cycle. We normally begin producing melatonin each night around 9-10pm.
The blue light of computer, TV, and phone screens tells our brain to stay awake, stop producing melatonin, and, according to the American Medical Association, not only disrupts our circadian rhythms, but also has negative effects on “cell cycle regulation, DNA damage response, and metabolism”.
Some people have chosen to replace the bulbs in the lamps they use at night with rose-colored bulbs, or even wear rose-colored glasses (it’s a real thing, not just an expression!) There are also apps you can use to change the color of light on your screens in the evening, and a setting on your iPhone that does the same thing. (Settings –> Display and Brightness –> Night Shift)
If you, like many of us, fall into the “black hole” of social media in the evening, here are some tips to help you get control of the time you spend on social media.
5. Develop a nighttime routine
As much as we like to feel we are in control of our universe, when it comes to sleep, our brains are creatures of habit, and need to be properly trained. If you are currently not sleeping well, you may have inadvertently trained your brain with the wrong sleep habits! A thoughtful nighttime routine will go a long way toward bringing you a good night’s sleep.
Your nighttime routine should incorporate the tips above. Other parts of your routine might include the following:
– Go to bed and get up at approximately the same time every day. Even weekends. I know, I know. But the research shows that you can’t really “catch up” on your sleep the way you think you can, anyway.
–Have a high-protein snack about two hours before bed.
–Eliminate stimulants like caffeine and nicotine from 4-6 hours before bed. People who are especially sensitive may need to eliminate consumption for 12 hours before bedtime. Click here to learn about recommended amounts of caffeine.
– Take a warm bath 60-90 minutes before bed. The rise in body temperature, and the subsequent drop when you get out of the tub, tells your body it’s time to go to sleep.
– Keep a journal and pen next to your bed so you can write down any last-minute thoughts before sleeping and won’t try to review them in your head all night long.
– Stop waking up to that annoying alarm sound. Get an alarm clock that wakes you up with light that mimics a sunrise. Here’s a link to reviews of the best “sunrise clocks”.
– Use a hypnosis or meditation app to calm your mind and bring you into the present moment. Some apps that have helped others are Calm and Headspace. Free meditation recordings are also available from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) and Tara Brach, among others.
– Remove all electric devices from your bedroom in the evening. There is some evidence that some people are highly sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMF’s). Experiment with removing all devices, even turning off your internet and/or your power, to see if this could make a difference for you.
Of course, if you are having persistent problems with sleeping despite all your efforts, please seek professional help.
A nutritionist can help you figure out any food sensitivities or allergies that might be keeping you up at night. A medical doctor can look for any physical causes that might be affecting your ability to sleep, like restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, or GERD, among others.
If you have ruled out medical causes, a therapist can be extremely helpful in assisting you to manage the thoughts and feelings that are keeping you up at night.
Please call me at 323-999-1537 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about how I can help you manage the stress this holiday season. I will be happy to point you to more resources in your area, or refer you to another therapist if we are not a fit. I want you to get more sleep, feel better, and have a terrific holiday season!