During the day, sleep often sounds delightful and we look forward to resting in the evening. Why is it then, that when the sun sets, sleep sometimes evades us? Occasionally having trouble falling asleep can be frustrating, but chronic sleep deprivation can be detrimental to our health. Here, we’ve provided some tips on how to fall asleep easier and make good sleep a habit.
1. Reduce Exposure to Light Close to Bedtime
Before the invention of artificial light, people spent their evenings mostly in darkness – a natural signal to the body to wind down. But artificial light, whether it’s from a television, smartphone, tablet, or lamp can throw off your natural biological clock, called your circadian rhythm. Research shows exposure to light slows the release of melatonin, a hormone that affects circadian rhythm. Blue light from your laptop or other devices, is shown to suppress melatonin even more than regular light. It’s best to use dim red lights at night if possible, and stop looking at blue screens at least a couple hours before bed.
2. Create a Cool, Dark, and Quiet Bedroom
Can you recall a night you spent tossing and turning because you were too warm in bed, or an obnoxious light was shining into your bedroom? It’s no mystery why you had a miserable night of sleep. Darkness isn’t the only message to your body that it’s time for sleep – cooler temperatures are a signal too. Because temperature decreases when the sun goes, studies have shown that our bodies respond to a drop in temperature similar to how we respond to a lack of light. Adjust the blankets on your bed and the clothes you wear to sleep to the season to be your most comfortable.
3. Develop Soothing Bedtime Rituals
Just as you brew coffee every morning to start your day, it’s important to create a night routine to prepare yourself for bedtime. Maybe an evening cup of herbal tea is the best way for you to settle in for the night, or you enjoy listening to soothing jazz to calm your mind. Set up your bedtime ritual to suit you. The best before-bed activities will put you in a state of relaxation so you feel ready to wind down and close the day.
4. Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Just as a bedtime ritual will help signal to your brain it’s time for bed, performing that routine at about the same time each evening will help you get used to the schedule you want. If you go to bed at varying times each night, you may be hurting your sleep schedule by throwing off your circadian rhythm. Choose a bedtime window that works for you and stay inside of it to get your best sleep. That way you will be able to wake up at about the same time each day and feel rested when you do.
5. Cut Down on Sugary Foods
While those sugary foods may taste delicious in the moment, you’re better off avoiding them if you’re having trouble sleeping. Sugar, like light, can negatively affect your body’s release of melatonin – the hormone that controls your circadian rhythm. And it’s not just super-sweet candy or cookies that play a role. The sugar in refined carbs, like white bread or pasta, can cause more sleep arousals, according to a study by Columbia University. The study’s author suggests switching out refined carbs for high-fiber ones, which have been shown to lead to more deep sleep.
For more tips on senior health, visit Brightwater Senior Living.