Everyone needs a good night’s sleep. When you don’t get it, your brain goes haywire. At the same time, developing healthy habits can be hard. Here’s what you can do to improve your nighttime routine.
Start In The Morning
Believe it or not, getting a good night’s sleep starts during the day, in the morning, not at night. Make sure you get up when the sun rises, and get outside early to expose your body (specifically, your eyes) to high-intensity blue light – the kind the sun emits during the early morning hours.
This first light is crucial. Why? Because high intensity, short-wavelength, blue light suppresses melatonin production. It sounds crazy, but it’s true, and it’s backed up by some serious research at Harvard Medical School.
By suppressing melatonin, you enter a wakeful state. This is part of the reason why most people feel energized after a morning walk, even when it’s not a brisk one.
Get The Right Bed
A good night’s sleep can’t be had with a bad bed. Some of the best water beds at IZoneBed.com are adjustable, making it much easier to get a good night’s sleep. Check your bed. If it’s not adjustable to your body, or if you’re a chronic toss-and-turner, consider buying a new bed. It’s an expensive purchase, but there’s no getting around it.
Get Enough Activity Throughout The Day
By increasing your activity during the day, you increase levels of certain hormones in the body that will help you feel more energized during the day. For example, cortisol spikes early in the morning in healthy people, which helps suppress melatonin enough for you to feel awake.
Cortisol is a stress hormone, and it can help you feel energized, get your heart rate going, and get you moving.
All this energy needs to be “burned off” during the day so that you feel tired – tired enough to sleep. Without that activity, there’s no impetus for rest.
Establish A Schedule
Establish a set schedule for sleeping. For example, most people would benefit from going to bed at the same time every night – say 9PM or 10PM. If that sounds early, it’s probably because you’re up too late at night and not getting good shut-eye.
Timing is also important. When your body releases melatonin after the sun goes down, and you resist that flood of hormone, you shut down the sleep cycle, which will impair the restorative process your body needs.
When you first become sleepy, this is when you should go to bed. Don’t fight it.
Don’t Go To Bed Unless You’re Sleepy
At the same time, you don’t want to fight with yourself by going to bed too early. If you’re not tired, don’t rush it. Of course, if you already have a bad schedule and sleep habits, you will actively need to take steps to adjust your sleep schedule so that you’re getting the right amount of sleep during the right times at night.
Only Use Your Bed For Sleep And Sex
Only use your bed for sleeping and sex. This builds a positive association with your bedroom – which should be a single-purpose room. People who read, watch T.V. and do other things in their bedrooms tend to have a harder time falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting a good night’s rest.
Over time, this will have a detrimental effect on your health. Nearly every study done on chronic sleep deprivation shows that it dramatically increases a person’s risk for serious illness. It also accelerates the aging process.
Avoid Electronics At Least One Hour Before Bed
A lot of research suggests that electronics at night are killing your chances for a good night’s sleep. You should shut off the iPad, iPhone, Android whatever, and even the T.V.
What will you do without all of your electronic gadgets? Read a book.
Seriously. For most people, this will be a huge stumbling block and a reason for failure. If you insist on having the electronics on, wear blue-blocking sunglasses that wrap around your eyes and keep the screen light low. Also, turn the surrounding lights down low. It’s not the best situation, but it’s better than nothing.
Try to relax before bed. Meditation can help calm your mind and ease you into a sleep state.
Take Supplements To Kickstart Your Sleep Rhythm
Your circadian rhythm is your “sleep/wake” cycle. Everyone has one, but some people’s rhythm is out of sync with what their body is telling them it should be.
Some doctors recommend low-dose melatonin to help establish a new cycle. But, you need to be careful with the dose. The body only makes a very small amount, and most commercial preparations contain ultra-high doses.
This will, ultimately, reduce the effectiveness of the hormone when it’s produced endogenously.
Melatonin is also secreted slowly, over time, and throughout the night in your body. So, if you choose to take a supplement, make sure that it is:
- No more than 200-300 milligrams and;
- A sustained release pill
Lillian Arden is used to finding solutions as part of her work in occupational therapy and likes to share her insights online. She enjoys sharing her thoughts through blogging.