“Spring Forward” (daylight saving time) happened a month ago. But if your sleep patterns are still disrupted, you’re not alone. Even though we set our clocks ahead an hour, every other day gets longer just a few minutes at a time. Our bodies adjust to compensate, but the internal changes respond to the gradual changes as daylight extends.
For most of us, the lack of day light during winter increases our melatonin level, since this hormone is triggered by darkness. Our carbohydrate intake tends to be much higher from staying indoors and eating home cooked meals, which, in turn, raises our leptin hormone level, which eventually disrupts our sleep patterns. Then, it all reverses just as gradually.
So your poor quality sleep may be entirely normal. But that doesn’t make it any better. Here are some healthy sleeping habits that might help you get a good night’s rest, several nights in a row.
Time for bed. Our parents made us go to bed at a certain time. We make our children go to bed at a certain time. It’s not to be mean and it’s not arbitrary either. It’s to make sure there’s time to get the rest needed for the next day. Start enforcing bedtimes for yourself as an adult.
“Healthy sleeping habits” means regular healthy behavior. So, start with setting a consistent sleep and wake time. If sleep schedules vary day-to-day, we can experience less energy which creates difficulty focusing on daily tasks.
How much sleep is enough? According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), adults should get at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Sleeping less than six hours, or getting seven hours of interrupted sleep a night can impact our health negatively and keep us feeling exhausted the next day.
Unwind. Promoting good sleep is key to getting quality sleep. Doing yoga or other low-intensity exercises before bedtime can help us relax. Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine in the evening before bedtime can help us sleep longer and better. Instead try a cup of caffeine-free herb tea like chamomile tea.
Make room. Sometimes re-evaluating our sleep environment can also help us fight sleep deprivation. According to the sleep experts, an ideal sleeping bedroom temperature is about 65 degrees, which is cool. Choosing breathable cotton fabrics for our bed sheets, pillowcases and blankets is best when it comes to comfort. For those who sweat at night, sheets and pajamas that absorb moisture may improve the chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
Create darkness. Did you know that bright lights after dark interfere with our brain’s ability to secrete melatonin? Our biological clock is found in the nucleus of our brain. Light and dark signals tell our pineal gland when and when not to secrete melatonin. Our melatonin levels increase and decrease with light and darkness, and so does our physical and mental health. In darkness, our melatonin increases, which is why we feel tired during sunset. However, being exposed to bright, artificial light, television and electronic screens, suppresses our melatonin levels, which makes us have trouble falling asleep. In order to avoid this situation, learn to sleep in complete darkness, consider using low-watt bulbs for the bedside lamps, and avoid electronics and television a minimum of a half hour before bedtime.
Minimize noise. Since our brain still processes sound even when we sleep, disruptions can play a role in us getting the rest we need. If the outside noises are keeping us awake at night, invest in a white noise sound machine. This device produces a variety of sounds (like wind blowing, rainstorms or waterfalls) that help to drown out unwanted noises so we can sleep better.
Improve air quality. Surrounding our sleep area with soothing, calming scents (like lavender) can relax us and send us off into a restful, deep sleep. Filling our homes with air-purifying plants help clean our indoor air. Encasing our bed mattress and pillows in allergy-free cases helps reduce allergens and improve our sleep.
Eat for sleep. Healthy sleeping habits can include nutrition. The amount of sleep we get is affected by what we eat throughout the day. Eating lighter meals in the afternoon and evening helps promote restful sleep. Usually, those that are sleep-deprived consume fewer vegetables and have a higher intake of fatty foods. Being mindful of the foods eaten throughout the day can help energize a full day that leaves us ready for a wonderful, restful sleep at night.
Making a habit of these good practices can help you get a good night’s sleep, every night!