Surprising Facts on Sleep and How to Get Enough ZZZs
“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.”… W. C. Fields
When you’re starting out in you career, or still in school, sleep may seem like a distant memory. However, sleep is essential for your body to regroup so you can learn and retain new information the next day. Here are some surprising facts on sleep and ways to get enough of it.
With all the distractions of social life, devices and things to do, many people can’t sleep. But there’s hope! Your brain is trainable. All it takes is a little discipline.
Limit your nap time
If you’re up half the night studying, and have an 8 a.m. class, then a nap is in your future in the afternoon. However, limit how long your naps are. Aim for an early afternoon snooze for no more than 20 minutes – this is the optimal time to recharge the body without feeling groggy when you wake up or not being able to get to sleep that night.
Stop worrying, start writing
If your mind is racing with things to do, or things you want to say to someone, there’s no way you’ll fall asleep. Instead of tossing and turning, keep a pen and paper next to your bed. Write down the things you need to do, or write a letter to someone you want to say something to. Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper keeps you from worrying about trying to remember it, sort of like the Pensieve.
Keep a regular sleep schedule
Yes, this includes weekends. Although it can be great to catch some extra zzz’s on a Sunday morning after staying up into the wee hours of the night on Saturday. But it’ll throw off your schedule during the week, and you’ll crash. Even getting up just a couple of hours of when you normally have to get up during the week will help. You can train your body. Once your body has a reliable schedule, it will know exactly when to fall asleep and wake up without you having to force it to.
Eat less at night
According to Ayurvedic medicine, lunch should be your biggest meal of the day. Your digestion is slower at night, and it’s harder to digest foods, so you may be kept up at night with heartburn or indigestion. What’s more, if you continually eat big meals and snack into the wee hours of the night, you’re likely to put on pounds, which also contributes to poor sleeping and snoring. Stop eating after 8 p.m. or a couple of hours before you go to bed. For dinner, avoid rich, filling foods and stick to healthy light foods, such as a soup, vegetables and healthy snacks. (Hot tea and warm foods are also great).
Control your exposure to light
Light is an enormous playing part when it comes to sleep. Just look at how the moon and the sun play roles in light. During the day, try to get as much sunshine as you can, and expose yourself to bright light in the morning. At night, limit your light time. Especially blue light like on your computer or phone—it’s keeping you up.
Avoid anything with a screen 2 hours before bed. This one’s not easy, but at least turn down the computer’s light, or turn off the blue light— some tech products now have controls over that. Instead of messing with your devices, try reading a book or writing, and drinking warm tea. This is a much more natural way to go to sleep than binge watching Netflix into the wee hours of the night.
Get regular exercise
Studies show that regular exercisers sleep better and feel less sleepy during the day. It can also improve symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea, resulting in more restorative sleep. If you cringe at the thought of going to the gym or running, start a daily walking routine. Walking has been shown to be extremely beneficial for physical and mental wellbeing. Walk to work, walk during lunch hour, or spend an hour walking instead of playing video games everyday.
Wind down in the evening
For someone who has insomnia or is a night owl, trying to get yourself to go to sleep earlier may cause anxiety. Instead of worrying, it’s best to just start some healthy, natural practices that will automatically get your body in sleeping mode. This can include:
- reading a book
- taking a warm bath or shower
- drinking tea (yes, tea again, but no caffeine!)
- doing some simple stretches (just YouTube bedtime yoga)
- dim the lights
- make simple preparations for the day ahead so you’re not worried about it
- listen to soft music
- meditate or try deep breathing or relaxation techniques
Prep your room for optimal sleep
Factors such as light, temperature and clutter all can have major effects on sleep. An ideal environment to sleep in is a cool, dark room. The ideal temperature is 60-68 degrees, as your body temperature starts to drop gradually as part of your natural sleep cycle. Turn off electric devices, and install window coverings if you wake up easy from the sunlight in the morning (however, this can also be a nice way to wake up if you go to bed early enough).
Keep the noise down – if you have noisy roommates, invest in a white noise fan or sleep machine, or buy earplugs. And lastly, only use your bed for two things: sleep and sex. It should not be used as an office, hangout or dining room table. Treating your bedroom as a sleep sanctuary will train your mind to recognize it’s time for sleep.
Even making your bed in the morning sets up your body for sleep when you get in it that night.