By James McFarlane BSc, MScPT (Candidate)
Sleep the Forgotten Medicine
Everyone knows what sleep is in theory but not everyone knows how to make the most of it. We have already talked about why sleep is so important and how to get tomorrow’s worries off your mind before bed. But how do we get a good night’s rest? Let’s talk about what you can do to make the sleep you DO GET higher quality!
How it often looks
All too commonly, we stay up on our computers or smart phones until right before sleep time (which I am guilty of right now!), watch movies or TV from our beds, or have otherwise noisy bedrooms (or even all three). I have had people say they text until they go to bed. All these things and more can keep you up later, but also lower the quality of your sleep. It’s robbing you of the value of the shut-eye you do get.
The 5 things you should do to get higher quality sleep
You want to make the most out of your sleep so you can wake up feeling rested. Feel good about the 7+ hours of sleep you are getting (you are getting 7+ hours in bed each night, right?!). To do that, try these 5 things!
1) Lights out early
As you know, you should be going to bed around the same time every night (hyperlink August 5th, 2016 post again). Plan to gradually lower the amount of lighting in the rooms you are in as you get closer to bedtime. The body will fall asleep better if it can slowly adjust to softer and softer lights. While you are at it, the darker the sleeping environment, the better – so make sure any curtains, blinds, doors and windows can completely black out any light that can come in to the room.
2) No blue screens
Try not to stay staring at your computer screen (or phone screen!) until the minute before bed. Our brains aren’t meant to go from staring at bright lights to sleeping in a snap, and research shows that the blue-toned background lights of most screens might be especially disruptive to normal brainwaves during the transition to sleep. So make a “no screen” policy to start at least 30 minutes before your planned sleep time.
3) A noise-free room
Although big noises like a TV left blaring or a construction jackhammer are obvious, are there little noises in your bedroom? The rumbling of a nearby fridge? Random traffic honks and beeps through an open window? All these sounds can disrupt sleep, kick you out of the normal brainwave cycles and lower the value of your time spent in bed. Best as you can, minimize these little goblins: locate your bedroom on the quiet end of your residence, away from the hub of day-time activity. If you live on a busy street, sleep with the windows closed. If your appliances make random noises, keep them outta your bedroom. Etc.
4) No caffeine after 2 pm
Caffeine is a mild stimulation which means it wakes your brain up. This is the exact opposite of what you want when goingn to bed! Consuming all your caffeinated drinks, like coffee, tea and even pop, before 2 pm will allow time for the caffeine to be processed by your system. Therefore, its stimulant effects will wear off long before they can mess with your sleep.
5) A bedroom only for sleeping
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make your sleep quality better by training your mind to associate your bedroom with sleep and sleep alone. Simply keep you bedroom to your bed and nothing else. No desk, no TV on the wall, no eating in bed. No using your bed as a surface to work on during the day. If your brain learns bedroom = sleep, then it is primed to fall asleep faster and easier when you enter it.
These above tips will help you get the most out of the time you spend in bed. If you are going to do all the hard work of exercising with us at STAVEOFF and sticking with a healthy diet, then you owe it to yourself to take the time to sleep well and recover right!