If you ask anyone who is yawning throughout the day, or groggy first thing in the morning, they ALL have fantastic sleep habits. Truth be told, a majority of people are not getting optimal sleep. If you are someone who cannot seem to get rested, here are five tips to help you achieve optimal sleep.
- Limit stimulants prior to bed. We all know at least one person who boasts that they have the ability to “drink a cup of coffee and go straight to bed.” This is similar to someone who drinks alcohol regularly (and heavily) boasting that they can take a certain amount of shots and still function perfectly fine. Their bodies have become accustomed to their addiction. They are not anomalies. They are not special people. Their bodies don’t react differently than everyone else’s. They simply consume a product enough that the typical reaction doesn’t occur. So, even if you are someone that swears caffeine does not affect you, do not consume stimulants (such as caffeine) prior to bed. You may be able to “go straight to bed,” but you can also go to sleep on a subway. However, that doesn’t mean that you are going to get restful sleep once you do.
- Limit the use of sleep aids. If stimulants are bad prior to bed, you would think that products, which are designed to assist in your ability to fall asleep, would be beneficial. Not exactly. Melatonin is the hormone that is responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. As the day comes to an end, your body's natural production of melatonin begins to rise. I am very weary of depending on a product to do something our bodies were naturally wired to do. Approximately between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, and a whopping 4% of adults use prescription medication for sleep. Sure, there are a few people who legitimately need sleep aids. However, you also have millions of people who use them “because they have always used them.” Stop popping melatonin pills like they are candy, and try to let your body do what it is naturally designed to do.
- Hello Darkness My Old Friend. Our bodies production of melatonin can be suppressed by LIGHT. How? Our bodies are designed with a certain timer known as a circadian rhythm. This is a 24-hour cycle that determines when our bodies are sleepy and when they are awake. As stated above, prior to bed (approximately 2 hours prior to sleep), our bodies production of melatonin is at its highest. When we expose our bodies to light, two things occur: (1) our circadian rhythms are reset and (2) our body’s production of melatonin is inhibited. Fix this by sleeping with black out curtains and also consider using a sleep mask.
- Turn Off the TV!!. This one piggybacks off of the previous one. I know several people who sleep with the TV on every single night. For years, I was this person. I would fall asleep watching a movie or a show, and the TV would continue running. If you are someone who sleeps with the TV on, how rested are you during the day? 90% of the people I know that do this, always complain about being tired or worn out. Why? Well, as we discussed in number 3, your body’s production of melatonin (the hormone needed to sleep), will be hindered by the lights (especially blue lights – lights that are emitted from screens). Not only are blue lights bad for your eyes, the signal they send to our brains is that it’s time to be active and awake. This is not the signal you want to send while lying in bed. Worse than the lights emitted is the sound emitted. Sure, some people sleep with the TV muted, but several people sleep with the TV at a “normal” volume or at least tuned to where sound can be heard. We have all been guilty of this. After all, how else would we know the Love Song infomercials by heart? Kids under the age of 25 missed out on this. What’s the problem with sound? Well, considering the fact that most of us use “sound” to wake us up (alarms), whenever a sudden sound occurs as we are sleeping, it is affecting our restfulness. Obviously, if you are sleeping with the TV slightly above “mute,” this isn’t as pressing of an issue. However, do your body a favor and turn the TV OFF!
- Get to bed EARLIER. We all live busy lives, right? Well…we convince everyone we live busy lives. We complain about our busy lives. We constantly tell people we “don’t have time.” However, in a 24-hour time span, how much “work” are we actually doing? For most people, “time” is an overcompensation. They convince everyone around them that they don’t have time, yet they somehow find time to binge watch shows from their favorite streaming service EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. They find themselves staying up until the wee hours of the morning, promising themselves that they will go to sleep once this episode is over. If you have time to watch shows, play on your phone, scroll social media, play video games, etc., then you have time to go to bed. Sure, it sounds boring, but our bodies are designed to go to sleep and wake up at certain times. If you feel yourself struggling to get out of bed in the mornings, try going to bed earlier. If every weekend is nothing but you sleeping past lunch, try going to bed earlier.
There are many things that can factor in to a night’s rest: Mattress quality, sleeping positions, meals eaten before bed, etc. However, these five issues are some of the most common mistakes people make in the bedroom (ask your partner about any other mistakes being made). Correct these five areas and see how your quality of sleep improves!