Friday, September 12, 2014

Bedtime Blues: Suggestions for Better Sleep

Bedtime Blues
When was the last time you found yourself in the middle of a 1 a.m. Netflix binge on a Tuesday? Finished your last cup of coffee at 4 in the afternoon? Ate a big dinner after 7 p.m.? If you answered recently, but not regularly, you’re probably OK. If you answered every day this week, it’s time to admit you have a problem. Your daytime habits affect your nighttime abilities to fall asleep and stay asleep, so kick the bedtime blues by following any of these three suggestions:

Get Into a Routine

As humans, we like to form habits. Whether it’s reading the news with your breakfast or taking the same route to work, we all have our daily routines. While your mornings may be consistent, how do you spend your evenings? Do you bounce back and forth between late nights at the office and early nights in? The first step to starting a healthy habit is cutting out activities that often lead you astray. Consider investing in an activity tracker to document your movements and see how they affect your overall sleeping patterns. When you see that on nights you walked the dog you got better sleep than on nights you watched extra hours of TV, it will most definitely fuel your habit-changing fire.

Lose the Light

From harsh street lights to blinking computer screens, most types of light can threaten your good nights’ sleep by suppressing the secretion of melatonin. Additionally, according to a 2012 Harvard health study, blue light emitted from electronics and energy-efficient bulbs may be especially damaging. Blue wavelengths are great for helping boost our mood, focus our attention and increase our reaction time, which obviously are the reasons why blue light is bad for our brains right before bed.

To better manage nighttime light, control your bedroom environment. Do any last-minute email checks or Facebook updates outside the bedroom door. Invest in custom curtains that can block any outside light pollution. Keep the TV in the living room. Once you succeed at getting unwanted light out, think about bringing appropriate light in. For example, consider a bedside clock that uses light to simulate the sun and gradually gets brighter before your alarm is set to go off.

Set the Mood with Music

There are several stages of sleep your body must travel through before reaching REM sleep, which is the most restorative and relaxing stage of sleep. If you’re like most insomniacs, the first stage, or the first five to 10 minutes you lie with your eyes shut, is the hardest.

If you can’t relax or clear your head, start the night right with soothing sounds that allow you to concentrate on something other than your stressful day. Apps like Relax Melodies allow you to choose from nature-sound playlists like thunderstorms or winding rivers. If you need something more, try the self-hypnosis meditation app Relax & Sleep. Featuring British clinical hypnotherapist Glenn Harrold, this app offers 27 minutes worth of free audio clips. If you consistently set the mood with music, soothing sounds will remind your mind that it's time for some shut-eye, which guarantees you a better night of sleep.