We all operate off an internal clock known as circadian rhythms. Researchers have known for a long time that light disrupts our internal clock and thus disrupts our natural sleep cycles. Blue light from electronics is particularly worrisome. The blue light emissions from electronic devices affect how much melatonin is released. This is a critical sleep-regulating hormone. Studies reveal people using screens that emit blue light don’t make as much melatonin. Recommendations suggest avoiding blue light exposure for at least 2 hours before sleep. This may be difficult if your nighttime routine solely involves electronic devices. The good news is that many manufacturers are heeding scientific findings and offer alternatives to the blue light.
Apple’s “night shift” mode (for iOS versions 9.3 and higher) can be accessed from the settings menu under “display and brightness,” and it’s simple to set a schedule for automatic engagement during the hours you use your device before bedtime.
Activating this feature can be accomplished by downloading the “Night Mode Enabler” third-party app from the Google Play store.
*The best option is to avoid your electronic devices before bed, but for those of you dependent on your nightly social media fix, the next best option is to reduce blue light exposure.*
Your sleep environment may be the one thing that helps you quickly transition to rest or the thing that keeps you tossing and turning all night. It’s also a commonly overlooked factor! There are a number of techniques for optimizing your sleep space for a more restful slumber:
- Noise Control- If there are noises out of your control, try a white noise sound machine
- Temperature-Our bodies typically prefer a slightly cooler environment for sleep
- Lighting-Our bodies respond best in a dark environment
Let’s take a look at different mattress materials available.
- Innerspring Coils-Ideal for people who want strong support, durability, cooling, and bounce. It also provides excellent edge support.
- Latex-Ideal for people who want cooling, responsiveness, and bounce.
- Memory Foam-Ideal for people who want body shaping, contour, pressure relief, and support.
- Hybrid-Ideal for people who want the best all-around product with support, bounce, cooling, and pressure relief.
- Adjustable-Ideal for people with certain medical conditions like snoring, older sleepers, and people with lower back pain.
- Pillow-Top-Ideal for people who prefer more padding and softer feel.
Something else to keep in mind is also age – depending on your current mattress quality and material, most mattresses have a lifespan of 7 to 10 years.
Diet has a more significant impact on sleep than you may realize. When it comes to a good night’s sleep, it’s not just about WHAT you eat, but WHEN.
Let’s start with the obvious, caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and should be avoided in the latter half of your day. Other sources of caffeine that may surprise you include protein bars, decaf coffee, non-cola sodas, ice cream, yogurt, candy bars, hot chocolate, and flavored water. Make sure to read package labels to avoid any source of caffeine late in the day.
Data shows that low fiber intake, and high saturated fat and sugar intake throughout the day is linked with lighter, less restorative sleep. Indigestion before bedtime makes it harder for your body to relax and drift off to sleep. Limiting sugar, in general, will positively impact all aspects of health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, cutting sugar will keep energy consistent throughout the day, leading to a better night’s rest. While you want to avoid going to bed on an overly full stomach, your sleep may be disrupted by hunger if you’re running on empty. Opt for high fiber low sugar nighttime snacks such as oatmeal, carrot sticks with hummus, or avocado on whole grain toast.
Finally, you may want to reconsider that evening drink. While the effects of alcohol can knock you out quickly, research shows it disturbs the quality of your sleep later in the night. Before calling the doctor for a sleep aid prescription, try a natural supplement instead. Sleeping pills come with the potential of many harmful side effects, and frequent use can lead to dependency, addiction, and can cause problems with memory and attention. WebMD reports sleeping pills can interfere with normal breathing and can be dangerous in people who have specific chronic lung problems such as asthma, emphysema, or forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Valerian is an ancient supplement that has been used for combating insomnia and nervousness. Like valerian, chamomile s a traditional herbal remedy that has been used since ancient times to fight insomnia. Chamomile is often found in sleepy time teas. You can also try synthetic melatonin supplementation. Melatonin is a hormone naturally found in the body and is believed to play a central role in regulating sleep and circadian rhythms. When taken responsibility, natural remedies pose less health risk than prescribed alternatives. Before taking any supplement, it’s always recommended to speak with your doctor to ensure safe use.
When it comes to the benefits of exercise on sleep, there’s no shortage of evidence! Exercise has been shown to improve sleep in numerous ways. Physical activity increases the time spent in deep sleep, improving the overall quality of sleep. Additionally, exercise also can help you increase the duration of your nightly rest. One common sleep issue is stress and anxiety. Guess what, exercise can both reduce stress and relieve tension. In fact, just 5 minutes of exercise can trigger anti-anxiety responses in the body. When it comes to how much exercise you need for better sleep, the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise a week for healthy adults—that’s 30 minutes a day, five days a week. The key is consistency. A regular workout is ideal for aiding sleep. Mind-body exercises, such as yoga, offer the added benefit of working the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate and reduces blood pressure among other tasks. Research shows that mind-body exercises help to lower cortisol levels, reduce blood pressure, and provide a mood boost. Whether your activity of choice is swimming, running, weight-lifting, gardening, or yoga, practice regularly for a better night’s sleep.
Take time to work on your sleep habits!