In today’s fast-paced world, it is not uncommon for adults to have an erratic sleeping schedule. With more pressure and responsibilities to stress you out, you may find the quality of your sleep decreasing. And the worse the quality of your sleep, the more your stress gets out of hand. It then becomes a cycle where your body and your daily performance suffer.
To make sure you get a good night’s sleep, you need to establish a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Developing your circadian rhythm by managing your day to day activities will help you regulate this cycle. This is not limited to just your bedtime routine, but also the other things you do throughout the day. In fact, it begins from the moment you wake up. The following tips will guide you on the steps you could take throughout the day to improve the quality of your sleep.
1. Avoid sleeping in.
Start the day right by getting up when your alarm wakes you up at the time you set. Resist the temptation to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep for another few minutes. Practicing this regularly will set your body clock to wake up at a set time of the day. However, should you wake up earlier than usual, it would be better to just get up instead of waiting for your wake-up time. Forcing yourself to go back to sleep just to wake up at the time you set can eventually lead to insomnia.
2. Don’t skip breakfast.
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Indeed, it is this first meal you take in the morning that kick-starts your energy. Studies have shown taking breakfast could lead to better concentration and memory. On the other hand, skipping it can throw your eating rhythm out of whack, and you may be more likely to overeat during your other meals. It could also make you feel drained of energy throughout the day.
3. Get some morning sun.
Sunlight is known to be a great source of vitamin D. But that is not the only thing it is good for. Morning sunlight can actually affect how you sleep at night. Spending just around ten minutes in it can regulate your circadian rhythm, which in turn promotes better quality sleep. You don’t even have to be directly under the sun’s rays. You still get more beneficial light outside on a cloudy day than you do in artificial light indoors. Not only that, but sunlight also triggers the release of serotonin, which can lift your mood and make you feel more awake. The best time to get some morning sunlight is between 7:00 am and 10:00 am.
4. Take a midday break.
You may find drowsiness setting in by the time you have had your midday meal. While you might think it is caused by what you ate for lunch, this sleepy feeling is actually a natural part of your circadian rhythm. A quick nap during your lunch break can boost your energy. You don’t even really have to fall asleep. Even about ten minutes just drifting off can make you feel refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the afternoon.
5. Avoid too much caffeine in the afternoon.
If you start feeling drowsy after lunch, you might be tempted to try to ward it off by drowning yourself in coffee. While it might perk you up for the rest of the day, a dose of caffeine in the afternoon could disrupt your body clock by putting off its natural progression towards sleepiness. Instead of your energy gradually decreasing as it gets later in the day, you might find yourself wide awake by the time bedtime comes. Difficulty in getting to sleep could affect your energy levels and performance the following day. Instead of having another cup of joe in the afternoon, opt for some herbal tea or just good old water.
6. Meditate away your stress.
Whether you have a job, are going to school, or have other things to take care of, you may have days where stress and anxiety creep up on you. Worrying can affect your ability to fall asleep and get a restful sleep at night. You could melt away your stress by spending a few minutes in the afternoon meditating. One good method to release tension is body scan meditation. The technique is simply to focus on different parts of your body and its sensations, moving from head to toe.
7. Get your exercise before nightfall.
Because exercise increases your adrenaline, working out in the evening can wake your body up when it should be getting itself ready for sleep. You might think a good work out would tire your body out, but it could actually have the opposite effect. There is no doubt that regular exercise can help improve the quality of your sleep and reinforce your sleep-wake cycle. However, you should time it right. Try to avoid working out within three hours before your bedtime.
8. Avoid eating right before bedtime.
Eating too close to bedtime could lead to difficulty in getting to sleep. It may cause indigestion, heartburn, or acid reflux, which could all affect your sleep. Even feeling too full can give you trouble dozing off. It is recommended to have your last meal of the day at least three hours before bedtime. This will give enough time for the contents of your stomach to be digested and would prevent sleeplessness due to digestive issues.
9. Turn off the blue light early.
Bright blue light can affect your readiness for sleep. It reduces the production of your melatonin, which is what makes you feel sleepy. Sources of blue light include fluorescent and LED lighting, electronic devices, and digital screens such as television sets, laptops, mobile phones, and tablets. To better prepare for sleep, turn off your fluorescent lights, and avoid using your devices at least two hours before your bedtime. Instead, turn on your warm-hued lamps and set your electronic devices to night mode. If you often need to use your gadgets late in the night, you could get glasses that are made to block blue light.
10. Unload your stress before going to bed.
Leave your stress behind before you get settled for bed. Try to allow your worries to run through your head earlier in the day so you can forget about them when you go to bed. If you find your worries still nagging at you as bedtime approaches, try writing down a list of the things that are bothering you and what you could do to deal with them. After doing so, put your list away to return to in the morning. Or you could simply write down your experiences for the day in a journal. Unloading your thoughts and feelings, both negative and positive, can help reduce your anxiety.
11. Establish a bedtime ritual.
You could reinforce your circadian rhythm by establishing a consistent bedtime ritual. You could start by setting a specific time to go to bed. Committing to a fixed time might be hard at first, but once the habit is established, you could find yourself getting the sleep you need. Create a series of activities leading to bedtime, and set a specific order in which to do them. You can choose whatever helps you relax and get in the right mood for sleep. Some examples of activities that might help are writing in a journal, meditating, and reading.
12. Set the mood in your bedroom for sleep.
As you get ready for bed, make sure that the atmosphere in your bedroom is conducive to sleep. It should be free of noise, with an ideal temperature of somewhere between 60°F and 67°F. Invest in a mattress and bedding that you find comfortable. Turn down or turn off your lights completely. You might prefer to use an eye mask if some unwanted light still streams in. Finally, keep your clock away from your line of sight. Keeping watch of the time can increase your anxiety just when you are trying to relax.
Take these tips to guide you in improving your sleeping habits and getting a good night’s sleep. Trying all of these at once might be too much to handle, so choose a few techniques to try that you can fit in your schedule and that you feel will help you get some much-needed rest. Once you have made them a part of your daily routine, you could try some other methods to further reinforce your circadian rhythm.