Have you been tossing and turning all hours of the night? Well, it’s probably because your sleeping patterns are off. A bad sleep cycle can damage both your mental and physical health. Luckily, there are ways to fix it.
Should you skip naps? How important is noise? Wait, do I really need to stop eating? We’re talking about all this AND more, so stay tuned…
Don’t Eat Before Bed!
Foodies, I’m talking to you. Snacking is fun, but your eating habits are not translating into a calm and healthy sleep. That sandwich you ate an hour before hitting the pillow may have just cost you a good night’s rest.
Before I jump any further, let’s talk for a second about circadian rhythms. These are the changes your body goes through during the 24-hour cycle. Let’s say you go for a late-night McDonald’s run– We’ve all been there– And you scarf a Big Mac down with a large soda. Your circadian rhythm gets thrown off when this happens.
Late night meals generally delay sleep. It’s recommended that you eat two hours before bed at the latest. This way, your body has time to digest, making it so much easier for your body when you finally get that rest.
If your temptation gets the best of you, and you decide to give in, go for something that includes a decent mix of carbs and protein. Whole wheat toast comes to mind pretty quick. Usually, meals that are high in fat aren’t as good for your sleep.
You Might Want To Skip Naps.
I know, we all love a good nap. There’s sometimes nothing better than laying on the couch and shutting your eyes for 20 minutes. You feel like running a marathon after waking up. The problem is naps can keep you from actually falling asleep at night.
Also, it’s very easy to get a little too comfortable during naps. If you’re really tired during the day, you could end up sleeping hours. It doesn’t even matter if you set an alarm. This can leave you groggy when you finally do wake up.
Experts suggest that if you do decide to shut your eyes, aim for something no longer than 20 minutes. Even a 10 minute nap can work wonders. I don’t mean to cut your naptime short, but you want to be able to get to sleep later at night.
How About A Little Exercise?
Be honest, when was the last time you had a good workout? Exercise is crucial if you’re feeling sluggish throughout the day.
Regular exercise will reset your internal clock. Physical activity benefits your muscles and tissues, which are linked to your circadian rhythm. When you work out, your rhythm gets back on track.
Aerobic exercise in particular is best for your sleep cycle. This means activities like walking, running, cycling or swimming. Aerobic workouts are so powerful, you’ll feel a difference the night after you do them.
It’s good to have about 30 minutes of aerobic activity at least 5 times a week. Just know that evening exercise overstimulates your body. Like eating, make sure you’re leaving at least a two hour gap between exercise and sleep.
Just tie on those runners, and head out for a jog. You’ll sleep so much easier.
It’s not just exercise your body needs to get the right type of sleep. How often do you open your bedroom window and feel that cool breeze? I get it, some people find this uncomfortable, but we don’t realize how good this is for our sleep cycle.
One of the most important things your body needs for a proper sleep is a lower body temperature. “Well then why am I trying to get warm in bed?” You can nestle under your sheets as much as you like, but you’re going to want to change your body temperature. This helps calm your body down so you can sleep. Studies have shown just how crucial this is.
Now you need to be careful when adjusting your thermostat. You don’t want to go below the recommended temperature. Experts say you should stay between 60 and 70 degrees Farhenheit. That’s around 15 and 20 degrees Celsius. If you go lower than that, you risk messing up your sleep even more.
Get A Little More Meditation Into Your Life.
That’s right, meditation will do a lot to help you rest. Now, some of you may not be meditation people, but practicing it a few times a week will make you feel relaxed and ready for bed.
Your mental health plays a huge role in your sleep cycle. Think about it, if your mind is occupied by anxious thoughts, you’re going to have a tough time closing your eyes. This is all thanks to cortisol.
Also known as the stress hormone, cortisol works with your brain to control your mood. When you’re feeling depressed or anxious, you’ve got cortisol to answer for this. The more worked up you are the more cortisol your body will produce, keeping you awake for a longer period.
One of the things you can do is create a bedtime ritual for yourself. This is an exercise that calms your mind and makes you better fit for rest. When you meditate, you confront your thoughts. This allows you to process them, making you less anxious.
Your nightly routine doesn’t necessarily need to be meditation either. You can do yoga, some stretches, or even write your thoughts in a journal. Whatever helps you process your feelings in that moment.
Steer Clear From Caffeine.
Coffee drinkers, listen up! I know a daily trip to the drive-thru helps you get through the day, but it’s also what’s keeping you awake. We all know that coffee gives you that jump you need to complete your work. But too much caffeine will have you staying wired all day. The closer you have it to bedtime, the less you sleep. It actually works in a cycle.
You see, caffeine causes sleep deprivation. Studies show that 400 mg of caffeine taken even 6 hours before bed can disrupt your sleep. Because of this, you’re going to feel tired the next day, forcing you to drink more caffeine. If you don’t cut back on the coffee, you’re never going to get the sleep you need.
If you’re in desperate need of a late night drink, green tea can help. The compounds in green tea fight your body’s cortisol levels and reduce the neurons, making you less excited and ready to sleep.
Cut Back On The Booze.
If you think coffee’s bad for your brain, alcohol can be even worse. Alcohol will disrupt your sleep quality. Sure, a few drinks can work as a sedative that relaxes your brain and prepares you for sleep. But too many will screw around with your sleep cycle.
Studies have shown that just a few drinks can decrease your sleep quality by about 10%. This could be 2 drinks for men, and 1 drink for women. On the other hand, high amounts of alcohol can decrease your sleep quality by close to 40%.
People who live with alcoholism will often report insomnia. It’s also been said that too much drinking can worsen symptoms of sleep apnea.
Now, I’m never going to tell you to stop drinking. You have to make that decision on your own. But, if you do drink every day, I would cut back and limit my alcohol intake to only a couple times a week.
Keep in mind, it may not be your diet hurting your sleep, or caffeine, or your alcohol intake. It might simply be the fact that there’s too much noise around you. Think about it, if you’re hearing an annoying racket, it’s going to be hard to fall asleep.
Before you go to bed, make sure your environment is quiet. This means no TV blaring. There are also some people who enjoy falling asleep to recordings of their favorite natural sounds. It can be relaxing to doze off to the sweet sounds of the ocean breeze, but this doesn’t work for everyone. In most cases, you should have all sounds turned off.
For the people who like sleeping with their window open, this could work against your best interests. If you’re sleep deprived and you live in a big city, the sounds of busy streets might distract you from passing out. Try closing your window at night, and see how it goes.
This leads to my next point…
Turn Your Phone Off!
I can’t stress how important this is. In order for your sleep cycle to improve, all your devices need to be turned off. Your friend or significant other can wait ‘til morning for you to text them. Your sleep is a little more important than your thoughts on the newest Disney Plus show.
I know you’re probably turned off by this, so just to convince you, let’s throw a little science into the mix. Remember your circadian rhythm? Well in order for it to work, you need a little something called melatonin. This helps control your sleep-wake cycle.
When you’re sitting in the dark looking at your phone, a wave of endless blue light hits your eyes. This causes your melatonin to pump the breaks. As a result, you won’t be able to get to sleep.
If you’re addicted to your phone– I mean, let’s face it, who isn’t these days?– Try turning it off and placing it on your bedside table. Or better yet, leave it somewhere across the room so it’s out of your reach. Oh, let me guess, your phone is your alarm clock? Well, how about you switch it to vibrate and put it away where you can’t see it.
As hard as it is to stay away from your phone, it will help your sleep quality in the long run.