Managing your sleep can be easier than you think. It comes down to sorting out the factors that affect your sleep. Most people are on the go all day and want to come home to get a good night's sleep. We assume that all we need to do is go to bed and sleep will happen. There's more to the picture than that. Here are ten things you should consider to improve your sleep:
Time of Day/Circadian Rhythm
These are the internal and external cues for sleep. Going to bed and getting up at the same time helps to train your body that sleep happens between those times. It's also important to follow the natural rhythm of light outside. Go to sleep when it's dark and wake up when it's light. That isn't always possible for people further from the equator. In those cases, stick to a set sleep/wake schedule to keep your body on track.
Sleep is impacted by the amount of light you are exposed to during the day and immediately before sleep. Get light exposure early in the morning to tell your hormones that it's daytime. Reduce light exposure in the evening and before bed, to allow the natural production of melatonin. This hormone helps your body transition to sleep.
Preceding Waking Duration
This is how long you've been awake since the last time you slept. The longer it has been between your last sleep or nap, the higher your sleep drive will be. Cutting out naps can help increase this drive so that you are more sleepy when you want to go to bed.
Your body needs a transition from activity to sleep. Plan a buffer zone to help you shift from physical or mental tasks into sleep mode.
The temperature of your room can make a significant impact on your sleep. Studies show that sleeping in a cooler room with good air circulation can help you sleep better.
While these substances may be a part of your life, they interfere with sleep. Caffeine and nicotine can make you amped up or jittery, making it hard to sleep. Alcohol can help you to fall asleep (win!) but it also prevents you from getting the deep restful sleep you deserve (lose!)
Many of the medications you take can affect your sleep. Even over the counter medications can negatively impact sleep. Read the drug monograph carefully and reduce or eliminate medications that you no longer need. Sleep aids may seem like a good solution and are beneficial for some people. Use caution as they can create dependence on them and don't solve the initial problem.
Medical conditions and injuries can cause temporary or long-lasting sleep issues. Some of the most common conditions include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypoglycemia, gastroesophageal reflux, congestive heart failure, and renal disease. Neurologic issues include: head trauma, brain tumor, and encephalitis, to name a few. Discuss your condition with your doctor and come up with a plan to support better sleep.
Fever or Other Illnesses
Many of us have sleepless nights when we are sick. Keep in mind that these conditions are usually short-lived. An extra nap when you're sick is a great way to help your body recover.
Temporary Sleep Changes
Circadian rhythm disturbances can occur from jet lag or shift work. These changes can affect sleep quality. Do your best to balance your schedule to minimize these changes. If you work shift work, build a sleep schedule to support the transition between shifts.
You may notice your sleep patterns improve by addressing these factors. Focus on good sleep hygiene habits to set you up for a better nights sleep.
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