By now you’ve likely heard that artificial light from your phone and TV at night disturbs your sleep cycle by throwing off circadian rhythms, but you may not know that you need sun exposure during the day for that same reason. Exposure to sunlight during the day helps keep circadian rhythms on track and boosts levels of serotonin, which in turn helps you fall asleep more easily. Missing out on your time in the sun can have negative effects on sleep so be sure to get outside a few times each day—drink your coffee outside and walk around outside on your lunch break.
A regular exercise routine does wonders for our health—helping with everything from our waistlines to our teeth—and the benefits of exercise extend to our sleep patterns, too. According to data collected by the National Sleep Foundation, more intense exercise directly correlates with better sleep quality. For a more restful night’s sleep, be sure to fit in a few tough workouts each week, but be mindful of when you work out. For many people, workouts too close to bedtime can keep them up, so it might be best to exercise in the morning.
We’ve all suffered through a sleepless summer night where it was just plain hot and uncomfortable, but even in the winter, a room that’s too warm can be an issue. Just a few degrees can mean the difference between a relaxing sleep and tossing and turning all night. Either turn down the thermostat or turn on the fan for a better sleep.
When you’re feeling a bit sluggish in the afternoon your first instinct might be to reach for another cup of coffee, but you might want to rethink that. In fact, according to a study published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, that late afternoon cup could be the very thing that’s wrecking your sleep. Depending on how your body handles caffeine, taking in too much close to bedtime can mean trouble. Most doctors suggest cutting the caffeine 6 or more hours before bed, stopping around four or five in the afternoon usually does the trick.
Just as you should cut the caffeine early, dinners and big snacks should be consumed earlier to avoid discomfort and sleeplessness. Studies have shown that eating too close to bed negatively affects sleep quality, so save the heavy food for earlier in the afternoon.
Having a tough time getting to sleep? It can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you’ve got a big day ahead of you, but experts warn against forcing it. Instead of trying hard to get to sleep, get up and walk around or read a few pages of your book; taking your mind off of your inability to get to sleep usually works better than stressing over your lack of sleep.
It should come as no surprise that stress takes a toll on sleep, after all, how many times have you been kept awake by looming deadlines, financial troubles or other daily stressors? Without a way to deal with these issues during the day, they are bound to affect our sleep. Developing a plan for dealing with stress is the best way to avoid sleepless nights spent thinking, so whether it’s a series of stress-relieving exercises, a meditation routine or simply writing in a journal, find a method that works for you.
The old “early to bed, early to rise” saying is more than just a fun rhyme—a consistent sleep schedule really does result in better rest (which, in turn, makes us “healthy, wealthy and wise”). Experts recommend getting to bed and waking up around the same time each day and the National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults aim for between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
If your current before-bed ritual involves watching TV or browsing Instagram until your eyes begin to shut then you shouldn’t be surprised that your sleep isn’t all that great. Winding down in a more calming and routine way (without electronics, preferably), can help you fall asleep more quickly and it can also improve sleep quality. Try a few of these great before-bed habits for a peaceful wind-down and a great night of sleep.