While most of us know it’s important to exercise regularly and eat well, we’re quick to give up sleep and put ourselves last in order to complete our never-ending to-do lists. This strategy comes at a cost if we routinely deprive ourselves of sleep, as sleep a very important role in maintaining healthy, productive and safe lives. New research indicates that fatal car crashes increase by six percent the week following the switch to Daylight Saving Time. The annual time change, dreaded by some and celebrated by others, often results in jet lag-like symptoms that can leave you feeling off, fatigued and blurry-eyed.
Here are a few tips to help you get to sleep, and stay asleep, this week and throughout the year.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends and holidays!).
- Wind down at least 30 minutes before bed. Soak in a hot bath, listen to soothing music or a guided sleep mediation, or practice relaxation exercise before going to bed such as deep breathing, mindfulness and yoga.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool.
- No screens at least 30 minutes before bed.
- Make your bedroom into a sleep-only zone. Watch TV, read or work in other rooms of the house.
- Avoid eating hefty meals or snacks at least two hours of going to bed.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol. While caffeine may seem like your friend during the day, it can wreak havoc with your ability to fall asleep. And, while alcohol may help you fall asleep, it prevents you from getting quality sleep.
- If you smoke, stop. Nicotine is a stimulant and can impede sleep.
- Exercise daily (30-60 minutes), but not too close to bedtime. Regular exercise in the late afternoon has been shown to deepen sleep.
- Get outside and expose yourself to as much light as possible during the day. This helps your body suppress melatonin during the day and delay your sleep cycle until bedtime.
- If you’re lucky enough to be able to nap during the day, keep them short—20 minutes or less and not too close to bedtime.
- If your mind is racing when it’s time for bed, write down your list of worries and to-do items so that you can sleep well knowing you have a plan for success already outlined for the next day. This is especially helpful on Sundays as many of us stress about the upcoming work week.
- Some sleep medications are habit-forming and have side effects. Talk to your doctor about alternative solutions.
- Don’t hit snooze on your alarm in the morning. The few extra minutes of sleep often are poor quality and will likely leave you feeling even groggier when you get out of bed.
Beyond making it easier to get up and out in the morning, here are just a few benefits of getting quality sleep that could positively impact your health.
• Improved alertness
• Sharper focus and short-term memory
• Better mood / less irritability
• Decrease in pain perception
• Better immune system function
• Better safety and job performance
• Less feeling overwhelmed / better coping skills
Make a schedule and try to stick to it—your health matters.