photo via: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/08/make-your-bed-more-comfortable_n_5831788.html
With the darkest day of the year quickly approaching, the holidays in full swing, and the chill of winter ramping up, you may find yourself feeling exhausted. In general, the darker shorter days can cause fatigue, even if you are getting a full eight hours of sleep a night.
Combat the constant feeling of fatigue and low energy by implementing small changes during the day to improve your sleep quality at night.
More rested, your productivity levels increase, energy levels increase, and emotionally you will be more balanced. Learn how to make the most of your sleep, and feel your best awake, with our tips below:
photo via: http://stevebequette.com/super-bright-lights/
The darker days are affecting you more than you may realize, as exposure to light plays a huge role in the body’s sleep cycle. When there is less light, the body naturally produces a hormone called melatonin, a nice natural sleep aid.
“Melatonin is a natural hormone made by your body's pineal (pih-knee-uhl) gland. This is a pea-sized gland located just above the middle of the brain. During the day the pineal is inactive. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal is "turned on" by the SCN and begins to actively produce melatonin, which is released into the blood. Usually, this occurs around 9 pm. As a result, melatonin levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel less alert. Sleep becomes more inviting. Melatonin levels in the blood stay elevated for about 12 hours - all through the night - before the light of a new day when they fall back to low daytime levels by about 9 am. Daytime levels of melatonin are barely detectable.”
While it may seem like your body will naturally regulate itself, modern technologies such as computer screens, TV screens, bright lights, and artificial lighting at night interfere with the natural production of melatonin. For example, long workdays in artificially lit environments can confuse your body, making it harder to sleep when you get home.
Since avoiding bright light, computer screens, and TV’s aren’t really an option; here are some tips to get more sleep:
Right Day Light
- Get Outside. Do you head to the gym first thing in the AM before work? Try taking a run outside. Take your coffee break outside, instead of the windowless office kitchen. Taking a moment to soak up some natural light helps signal to your body that you are up and it’s not time for sleep.
- Bring on the Bright! Keep your windows free from obstruction, let the light into your home. If you’re spending more time at the office, try to sit near a window. Light therapy boxes are also useful if there isn’t enough natural daylight.
- Super Sun. Wake up and find the sun! Have breakfast by a window, or head outside to let the light hit you for a few minutes first thing in the morning.
- Turn Off. Many people unwind by watching TV, playing games on their phones, or reading on their iPad/e-reader. As mentioned above, artificial light can throw off your body’s natural production of melatonin. Bright light from electronic screens – especially TV’s – make it difficult to fall asleep later. Try avoiding TV, and other electronics, at least two hours before heading to bed.
- Return to the Basics. Like TV, e-readers, iPads, and smart phones, have screens that interrupt the body’s ability to naturally get sleepy. If you typically read before bed on a device, this could be preventing you from falling asleep and sleeping deeply. Switch back to the paper form, and unwind the old fashioned way before bed, if you fancy reading.
- Prepare Bedtime Light Wisely. Since light plays such a major role in falling asleep and staying asleep, making sure your bedroom is optimally lit for sleep. Use blackout curtains, avoid electric alarm clocks with bright numbering, and use a sleep mask if necessary. If you wake up in the night to use the bathroom or grab a glass of water, try to avoid turning on bright overhead lights. Keeping it dark will help you fall back into a restful complete sleep.
Once you’ve gotten into the routine of unwinding without so many electronic distractions, you might want to turn your attention to your stress levels. Stress plays a big role in preventing adequate sleep. In an article on the toll stress takes on sleep, by Lindsay Holmes on Huffington Post Healthy Living, Holmes outlines five reasons that stress is detrimental to getting enough zzz’s, and describes the overarching problem:
“Stress has a way of making us toss and turn -- and those restless hours add up. According to the American Psychological Association's Stress in America survey, 43 percent of adults say that stress causes them to lie awake at night, and more than 50 percent of adults report feeling sluggish or lazy after a night of little sleep.”
How do you “turn your brain off” and stop worrying about the day’s hiccups and tomorrow’s agenda?
Getting into a relaxation routine before bed can help settle the mind, and allow for the days’ worries to melt away.
- Slow Down. Instead of watching TV, grab a yoga matt and practice your sun salutations. Use your ujjayi breath, and get into the flow. Loosening up your body with yoga, and falling into rhythmic breathing will allow your mind to focus on something soothing and repetitive.
- Soak It Off. Grab some lavender oil, fill a bath, and soak. Light some candles, put on some relaxing music, and enjoy the act of doing absolutely nothing. Getting into a nighttime ritual, focusing on your well being and health, helps move your mind away from daily stresses. Don’t have a bath? Try taking a hot shower. Grab some organic coconut coffee scrub and treat yourself to an all natural organic skin cleanse. Bring your blood to the surface and stimulate your skin, before dousing yourself with hot steamy water. You’ll feel refreshed and ready for a long night’s sleep.
Adjusting small things throughout the day, and into your evenings, can make the difference between a light sleep and a deep sleep. Treat yourself to a restful sleep, and feel energized and awake throughout the day.