10 Things You Can Do While the Sun is Up to Help You Sleep Better When the Sun Goes Down

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  • Alcohol, Caffeine, Daytime Performance, Diet, Exercise, Heath, Improved Sleep, Light Exposure, Meditation, Mindfulness, Prayer, Routine, sleep, sleep deprivation, Sleep Deprived, sleep habits, sleep hygiene, Sleep Strategies, wellness, Yoga
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It’s easy to get caught in a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation. Toss and turn at night, wake up groggy, crash in the afternoon, guzzle coffee to get by, repeat. Oftentimes the sleeplessness that plagues us by night is a function of the choices we make during the day. Whether through the habits we hold or routines we fail to hold, the potential for a great night’s sleep begins the moment we wake. Here are 10 things you can do while the sun is up to help you sleep better when the sun goes down.

1. Establish a Routine

Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Inconsistent sleep schedules correlate with poor sleep quality, increased sleep latency (time it takes to fall asleep), and shortened sleep duration. To establish consistency in your sleep routine, start by determining your sleep need, then stick to the schedule. Your body has one circadian rhythm, not one for the work week and one for the weekend.

TIP: Set a recurring alarm for bedtime. Even if you initially have trouble falling asleep at that time, get in bed, shut the lights off, and begin training your mind and your body to anticipate sleep.

 

2. Start Your Day in Bright Light

By exposing yourself to bright light for at least 15 minutes first thing when you wake up, you’ll “sync” your circadian rhythm and activate the systems that keep you awake and active.

TIP: If you work nights, wake before the sunrise, or live at a latitude with limited sun exposure, use a Litebook to get the same effect.

 

3. Avoid Light Exposure Within One Hour of Sleep

Bright light blocks the release of melatonin, the hormone chiefly responsible for sleep onset. Electronic devices such as TVs and iPads emit daylight spectrum light, so as long as you’re in front of a screen or under bright household lights, you’re inhibiting melatonin release and sleep onset.  

TIP: If light exposure is inevitable, try blocking blue light with glasses or screen covers.  This will allow melatonin to take its course and prepare your brain and body for sleep.

 

4. Caffeine Fast from Late Afternoon to Bedtime

It takes at least 6 hours for you body to metabolize caffeine, so it’s a good idea avoid drinking energy drinks, sodas, coffee, and tea from late in the afternoon until bedtime.

TIP: Be wary of decaffeinated beverages.  The FDA designates decaffeinated coffee as containing 2-5mg of caffeine per 5oz cup, but many retailed decaf brews contain levels far exceeding this limit.  Depending on your sensitivity, even a few milligrams can disrupt your sleep, so it’s wise to completely cut coffee consumption mid afternoon.

 

5. Avoid Alcohol Within 3 hours of Bedtime

Don’t be fooled into relying on a nightcap as a sleep aid. Although alcohol, by nature of being a depressant, makes you drowsy, it disrupts your circadian rhythms, increases snoring and sleep apnea, and causes middle of the night awakenings which hamper your restorative REM cycles.

TIP: If you’re accustomed to enjoying a drink in the evening, pour it as you prepare or eat you meal, allowing at least three hours for your body to metabolize the alcohol before it has to sleep.

 

6. Exercise Regularly

Exercise reduces the incidence of insomnia, decreases snoring and sleep apnea through weight loss, and improves overall restfulness through improved respiration and circulation.  

Core body temperature spikes during exercise, then plummets approximately five hours later.  Coordinating this with the natural rise in body temperature in the morning or the natural drop in body temperature preceding sleep optimizes the onset, quality, and duration of sleep.  

TIP: Try to time your workouts first thing in the morning or in the afternoon.  Avoid intense evening and late night exercise as the rise in temperature can offset your circadian cycles, inhibiting onset and quality of sleep

 

7. Hone your Diet

The keys to optimizing sleep through diet is to stabilize blood sugar, obtaining necessary micronutrients, and balancing consumption of protein, fiber, and healthy fat.  Doing so will promote healthy hormone production and release, avoid inflammation, equip your body with adequate fuel, and ultimately improve your sleep.

TIP: Build your meals up from a base of clean proteins, healthy fats, and veggies rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  This will provide the necessary precursors for sleep inducing hormones, while minimizing inflammation and spikes in blood glucose.

 

8. Quit Smoking

Cigarette smoke is a multifaceted sleep thief.  Nicotine inhibits sleep onset, causes insomnia and increased awakenings.  Individuals who smoke cigarettes are also 2.5 times more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea due to inflamed tissues in the nose and throat.

TIP: Smoking alters the expression of genes that facilitate sleep processes.  Quitting relieves symptomatic sleep problems but avoid cigarettes altogether and you’ll be more likely to sleep well throughout the entirety of your life.

 

9. Document “To Do’s”

A recent study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that writing down tasks to be completed the following day alleviated stress and allowed people to fall asleep more quickly.

TIP: Take 5-10 minutes each night to write down your objectives and concerns for the following day. Bullet points are fine, but be thorough.

 

10. Practice Mindfulness

Maintaining a prayer life, or cultivating a meditation or yoga practice has been linked to healthier sleep habits and sounder sleep.  These exercises maintain stress hormone levels and enhance neural plasticity and network synchronization, which allows for seamless transitions into and out of deep sleep.

 

You can read more about daytime strategies in this article or in our book, Sleep for Success!

 

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