Monday morning: you’re jolted awake by a screeching alarm. After pressing snooze a number of times, you’re forced into a rushed morning routine: shower, coffee, and breakfast in hand as you rush out the door. At work, desperately looking to offset the effects of a lack of sleep from the night before, you reach for more coffee. You vow that tomorrow will be different; you’ll get to bed at a reasonable hour and get out of bed when the alarm goes off. You do just that for a few weeks but lingering symptoms suggest you’re simply not getting enough sleep.
Could the cause be your quality of sleep? Poor sleep quality has the same effects as not getting enough sleep, or sleep quantity. Once you ensure you’re getting enough sleep, you need to make sure you’re getting valuable sleep. Before reaching for coffee and energy drinks, evaluate how to make your sleep experience favorable for getting adequate rest.
Begin optimizing your sleep by starting with three relatively easy fixes:
Sleep in a completely dark environment. Research has shown that sleeping in a pitch-black room is the best. This allows for the proper function of the body’s circadian rhythm. This is the biological mechanism which regulates our sleep-wake cycle. If we’re exposed to light and the rhythm is disrupted, our quality of sleep suffers.
The room should be a cool, but comfortable, temperature. Research has shown that room temperatures between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit create the most optimal conditions for sleeping. These cooler temps help your body produce more melatonin, decrease insomnia, and are linked to deeper, higher quality sleep overall. Be sure not to go too cold, if the thermostat is set too low, it could lead to shivering and restlessness which would negatively affect your night’s sleep.
Limit screen time, specifically exposure to blue light, before bed. Exposure to blue light, like that from smart phones, TVs, and tablets, suppresses the production of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for helping us to relax and fall asleep. If limited, we may find it difficult to both fall and stay asleep. If you absolutely have to be on a computer or can’t set your phone down, make sure you’re limiting blue light either via glasses or through settings on your phone.
Further suggestions include waking up and going to sleep with the sun, or choosing a
consistent time every day, adjusting your sleeping position, incorporating naps throughout the day, and waking up without an alarm. These suggestions require a little more effort than the previously mentioned three, so save them for later and start by picking the lowest hanging fruit first. By adjusting a few simple habits, you’ll be snoozing like a puppy after a long hike in no time!
Check out next week's post to read why sleep is important and how the quantity of sleep you're getting affects your body!
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Key Word: Optimization