Last week we talked about SMART goals for your New Year’s Resolutions- but here’s another idea, maybe 2017 is the year you resolve to get better sleep. Adequate sleep and rest play a huge part in helping to meet all your other goals and dreams for the New Year!
So let’s talk about sleep:
We’ve all heard the “get 8 hours of shut eye” mantra, but many people feel that this doesn’t apply to them. Many people believe they can function just fine on less than the recommended 8 hours. Others believe that sleep is unnecessary, or even annoying.
The reality is that your brain, which is the control center for your entire body, cannot function properly on little to no sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to many physical problems and studies show that “staying awake for just 17-19 hours straight impacts performance more than a blood-alcohol level of .05 percent….” Staying awake for 24 hours is equivalent to a “blood alcohol level of 0.10 percent.” (link to study) On the flipside- adequate sleep can help you lose fat, gain muscle, spur creativity, sharpen your memory and attention, avoid depression, and even live longer.
If getting better/more sleep is one of your goals this year, here are our best 10 tips for better sleep:
1). Recognize that you’re doing this for your health, sleep is very important (more important than Netflix :).
2). Pay attention to your caffeine intake. The half life for caffeine in the average healthy adult is roughly 5-6 hours. This means your afternoon coffee or evening pre-workout drink are still keeping you awake when you should be winding down for bed.
3). Watch your workout times. Cortisol is the hormone that keeps your brain awake. Long workouts stimulate your adrenals to create cortisol, as well as raise your heart rate and body temperature- so, simply put, long workouts in the evening can keep you awake past your bedtime. However, morning or day workouts don’t fit into every schedule- so try to keep evening workouts short and intense. If you notice that you still have trouble falling asleep, then see if there is a way to rearrange your schedule to allow for earlier workouts.
4). Skip the booze. Alcohol may seem to help you fall asleep faster, but drinking before bed prevents your body (and brain) from reaching REM- which is the state of sleep that helps to regenerate your cells. For more on how evening alcohol affects your brain and body, see our post from a few weeks ago.
5). Have a blue light cutoff. Anyone out there fall asleep to the light of your phone, tablet, or TV? (Everyone? Ok.. 🙂 The blue light coming from phones and other devices can mess with your circadian rhythm (which messes with your sleep patterns). Excessive (nighttime) blue light exposure coupled with reduced exposure to sunlight can cause you to be sleepy during the day and wide awake at night.
There are simple ways to combat blue light exposure: apps such as f.lux or twilight can automatically dim and redden your screens in the evening. Getting more daytime exposure to sunlight can also help keep your circadian rhythms in balance.
6). Avoid carbs before bed. ANY bedtime snack is best eaten at least 90 minutes before bedtime- this gives your body a chance to process the food you’re eating before shutting down for the night. A high protein snack is the best option for evening pick-me-ups. High sugar snacks can cause late night blood sugar crashes which can wake you up. If you’re craving a late night sweet- don’t give in- just go to bed. Your body is craving sugar because you’re sleepy- just go to bed.
7). Sleep at the right time. Getting enough sleep is important, but WHEN you sleep can also be very important. The hours for most beneficial sleep are between 10p.m. and 2 a.m.. Going to sleep before 10 p.m. also has the added benefit of being asleep before your brain can rally for a late night “second wind.”
8). Create a sleep sanctuary.
– Use blackout curtains. You’ve already blocked your own blue light, now you need to block your neighbor’s.
– Lower your thermostat. Most people sleep best in temperatures of 60-68 degrees. Play with your thermostat until you reach the temperature that works best for you.
-Turn out the lights. Power strips, smoke detectors, alarm clocks- all have lights. Either cover the lights individually or invest in an eye mask (they’re an easy, inexpensive solution) to keep your bedroom as dark as possible.
9). Have a bedtime routine.
Our bodies love routine, and having a bedtime routine helps your body know that it is time to relax. Start a few hours before you want to be asleep: Eat your high protein snack (if you need it), turn down the heater, turn off the blue light (shut down the TV, get off the computer, stop playing on the phone). Try reading a paper book or playing games with paper and pencil (Sudoku, crosswords, word searches, etc .). Brain games such as IQ Twist, colorku, or puzzles can be helpful as well.
10). Make meditation part of your evening. Meditation can help calm your brain anytime during the day, but is especially helpful before bedtime. Breathing exercise and mindful meditation help to calm the chatter of your mind and all those to-do lists that can keep you awake at night. Apps like Headspace and Calm can help guide you through a bedtime routine (just be sure to have your blue light turned down!).
Here’s to a year of better night’s sleep and more alert days!
We wish you good health,
Columbia Basin Racquet Club
Photo credit: Coleever via Flickr