It’s probably the most significant factor in your energy level during the working day. And conventional wisdom (not to mention a crap-ton of research) seems to indicate none of us are really getting enough of it.
So, if you find yourself dragging mid-day (as I often do, I confess), instead of reaching for that fourth latte, or chasing a sugar rush with a chocolate bar (mmm….chocolate), why not pay some attention to your sleep environment and habits, and get more, better sleep?
First: The Bad News – No Such Thing as Catching Up??
Yep. Word hit this past week that researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern under the guidance of sleep expert Dr. Gregory Carter have concluded the old myth that you can catch up on a sleep deficit by sleeping more on the weekends just isn’t true.
Well, isn’t THAT just dandy.
So what in the name of Serta are we supposed to do?
And it appears the answer is:
Don’t get into a sleep deficit in the first place.
Environmental Tweaks for a Better Night’s Sleep
Making a few easy tweaks to your sleep environment can help improve both the quantity and the quality of your nightly shut-eye. Consider trying the following:
- Lower the room’s temperature.
- Wash your pillows once a year.
- Try out a different kind of pillow – if you’re used to the soft, malleable down type, try out a fluffier foam version, or vice versa.
- Flip and turn your mattress every three months, to avoid uncomfortable permanent indentations which can cause back and hip pain.
- Get rid of all electronic toys, or at least move them outside the room.
- If you use an alarm clock, position it away from the bed, so you don’t get tempted to keep checking it when you’re having trouble sleeping. (That only increases anxiety, which in turn delays sleep further.)
- Try a white noise maker or nature sound CD to mask household and outside noises.
- Use lavender scents in a home fragrance diffuser or air freshener, or make a natural version by mixing a few drops of lavender essential oil with distilled water in a fine-spray bottle and spritzing the bed sheets and pillowcases.
- Use blackout curtains to seal off ambient outside light sources.
Better Sleep Habits Lead to More Restful Sleep
You can also make some simple shifts in your nighttime routine to improve your sleep. Try the following:
- Create a mindful routine before bed. If you follow the same ritual every night, it begins to signal to your mind and body that it’s time to power down for sleep.
- A pillow placed between your knees (if you sleep on your side) or underneath them (for back sleepers) can alleviate pressure on the back and help you sleep better.
- Don’t imbibe alcohol within two hours of bedtime, and stop all liquid intake at least an hour before you hit the hay.
- If you’re a bedtime reader (like me), don’t go for the latest thriller or suspense yarn. Instead, restrict reading immediately prior to sleep to literary or spiritually-themed books that won’t keep you turning the pages to find out if the evil twin really did do it.
- No caffeine within six hours of bedtime. Better yet, get rid of it altogether. It appears some folks are more sensitive to caffeine’s stimulant effect than others. You might be one.
- Stay away from too-hot baths or showers before bedtime. A raised body temperature can make it harder to fall asleep.
- If you do wake up and you’re warm, try this trick I learned a few years back: go to the bathroom, take a washcloth and wet it thoroughly with cool water, then sponge down your chest and torso. It’s a quick way to cool down your core.
- Go to bed eight hours before the time you naturally wake up — and keep that wake-up time consistent throughout the week.
Nighty-Night – Sleep Tight
Did I miss one of your favorite sleep aids? Share your suggestions in the comments below!