Night, Night: Mastering The Art of Sleep in 2022
While the world will *still* likely be trapped at home for the foreseeable future, let's forget "new year, new me". It's time for "new year, new sleep"!
For most, New Year's represents the best time to make big, positive changes to life; whether tackling a new diet or undergoing a stringent exercise regimen.
Although it is far more glamourous to focus on the hardest objectives that net the most visible results, it's those simple, small shifts to other parts of life, such as sleep, that possess an equivalent if not greater payoff.
The days spent in 2022 to focus on the goals needed to live a happy, fulfilling life require lots of energy. To produce an abundant supply, the nights must be optimized. Here's how!
Table of Contents:
- Eschew All Electronics From The Bedroom
- Make Extra Time To Wind Down Before Bed
- Spend Time Outside Everyday
- Evolve Your Bedroom Into A Dreamhaven
- Fix The Sleep Schedule
- Improve Your Diet To Optimize Your Sleep
Eschew All Electronics From The Bedroom
Of all the tasks necessary for better sleep, it would seem that the simplest is in fact the greatest challenge. Smartphones have been widely observed as bad for sleep in general--from social media provoking stress to the endless buzzing of notifications from every app imaginable.
Let's not forget to mention the blue light emitting from screens that have been clinically proven to disrupt the human body's circadian rhythm; defined as the 24/hour wake-rest cycle that we are naturally attuned to follow in a pattern based on light.
Under regular circumstances, the brain begins releasing melatonin, the hormone responsible for drowsiness, approximately 2 hours prior to going to bed.
Continuous exposure to blue light from screens in the few hours leading to sleep interrupts this flow and can lead to prolonged insomnia with lower quality sleep.
In the event you really can't live without your beloved mobile companion, give the sleep-friendly settings available on your device a try. One of the most subtle and easiest that can be used includes "Night Shift" for iOS and "Blue Light Filter" for Android. This assists in decreasing the exposure from blue light from sunset to sunrise or a customized schedule.
Despite the fact that such settings have yet to be proven through empirical research, this small change to one's tech use and lifestyle has the potential to be a boon to one's rest.
To go a step further, the enablement of Do Not Disturb represents a happy medium between leaving the phone outside the bedroom or decreasing the output of blue light at the very least. Do Not Disturb shuts off all notifications.
However, it too can be configured to allow notifications from particular contacts or to ring in the case that someone calls twice within the course of 60 seconds. This way, the phone won't interrupt your sleep, yet it provides the added security of knowing those most important can get in touch if it's absolutely necessary.
Make Extra Time To Wind Down Before Bed
In the modern world of infinite distractions and variables pulling you left and right at light speed, most people's days are full of stressors, from "doom-scrolling" to work deadlines to issues with partners to cooking to cleaning to paying bills.
Even the simple act of watching a suspenseful or downright scary episode of TV can heighten one's cortisol levels. Obviously, sleep and stress tend to not jive well, so it's best to use the minutes before bed in a way that eases into those all-important zzz's.
There are a number of soothing activities that make the majority of people naturally relax:
- Reading a book
- Conversation with a partner about each other's victory of the day
- Gratitude journaling
- Listen to podcasts
- Curl up to a weighted blanket that triggers feel-good hormones
- Light incense or use an oil diffuser for scent
What's even more essential than utilizing any specific activity mentioned above is combining any chosen elements of the wind-down into a nightly routine.
This allows the sequential incorporation necessary to engender calmness and won't stimulate your brain in the way daytime activities do. With time, the body will associate itself with its new habits at the end of the day and ease into sleep seamlessly.
Spend Time Outside Everyday
Of course, sleep typically occurs in the bedroom. Yet, the small things done throughout the course of the day can significantly alter its quality. As stated previously, sunlight signals the circadian rhythm and is the biggest signal to help differentiate between day and night. Daily exposure to sunlight helps to regulate this flow.
If you desire to wake up earlier upon going to bed, the circadian rhythm can be manipulated by intentionally timing the exposure the body receives from light. Short, intense bursts of early-day light from the outdoors can shift this.
For those who commute, consider parking a slight distance away from the destination instead of right next to it, then take a brief walk the rest of the way. For those who work from home, a short stroll around the neighborhood with their coffee easily mirrors a commute which helps to start a day on the right foot.
In the same way that exposure to natural light early in the day is responsible for changing sleep patterns, receiving it too close to bedtime directly inhibits the production of melatonin which subsequently increases the difficulty to fall asleep.
Recent studies determined that individuals who used e-Readers with backlit displays in the 4 hours leading up to their bedtime took significantly longer to doze off; reportedly feeling far less alert the next day.
It also helps to dim the ambient lighting of your home at least one hour before retiring for the night. The use of a TV's sleep timer or smart bulb to shut off at the same time every night serves as a stark reminder when its time to go dark.
Evolve Your Bedroom Into A Dream Haven
The environment of one's sleeping arrangement can significantly impact the quality of rest. While the lighting is indeed paramount, darker is always better. Blackout curtains represent one option, yet they fail to assist a potential partner who stays up reading. This can be counteracted by sleep masks.
Temperature is another critical consideration. By general consensus, it's best to sleep in a space running no higher than the mid-60's. If in the presence of a programmable thermostat, such a feat is easy to manage.
Even if no climate control is available, there are still other options. If outdoor temperatures are colder than within, the cracking of a window helps to reduce the temperature. The body's circadian rhythm also affects its overall temperature. In the few hours leading up to sleep, it undergoes a slow, gradual drop.
Warm showers in the evening can contribute to the body's temperature shifts, as when heated up inside, it will start to cool off the minute it walks out. If one is accustomed to sleeping in a warmer room, the body can be trained with reductions to the thermostat in weekly increments.
Sudden changes to the environment present their own unique set of challenges. Taking things slowly helps to naturally set the shift in.
Noise is one of the worst's culprits of poor sleep. This can be anything from passing traffic, dogs barking, or a partner's snoring. Unlike all the other steps, this particular dilemma can be far easily rectified. Aside from the traditional set of earplugs, there exist sound machines that drown out vibrations and assist in the sleeping process by halting random noises that could crop up at night.
Still, one more best practice includes limiting bedroom activity to no more than two key fundamentals: sex and sleep. This means avoiding TV or working on a computer, for instance, to help the brain build an association of restfulness with the space as opposed to stress.
Fix The Sleep Schedule
Quantity is not always equivalent to quality unless it's related to sleep. In the United States, nearly 33% of all adults are not getting the minimum recommended period of 7 hours per night that they need. Enough sleep poses the benefits of clearer thinking, increased energy, and better mood. Unfortunately, not enough sleep results in an increased risk of heart disease, an impact on the function of the immune system, and diabetes.
A consistent cutting of nights short has been linked to a growing problematic trend known as sleep debt; a toll that is often impossible for many to catch up on.
All you need to do to be successful with this endeavor is to base your bedtime around the hour your life's schedule requires you to wake up. Do not go to bed at 1:30 am if you have a job that demands you be up at 6:00 am, for instance. If you are the kind that needs an invisible poke in the morning, set an alarm and stick to it. By waking up at the same hour every morning, you can fall into the correct routine of also going to sleep at the same hour every night.
While sleeping at night is always the gold standard, it is simply not possible for everyone. To supplement those with young children or a baby, for example, daytime naps help to recoup the needed shuteye which will help one feel their best for the remainder of the day.
Improve Your Diet To Optimize Your Sleep
You are what you eat. Despite the fact that there are several items noted by health analysts like tart cherry juice and kiwis, the majority of foods don't help with sleep. Therefore, this conversation centers more around the foods to avoid which are responsible for harming your precious downtime.
Caffeine from sources including but not limited to caffeine play major roles, but there is some debate on the specifics therein: such as how much can one have, when they can drink it, how late in the day, etc. Not ignoring the fact it is bad for one's sleep, consumption of caffeine within a 6-hour time frame of the sleep schedule is believed to reduce overall sleep by as high as an entire hour.
Alcohol always seems to feel as though it's meant to help you sleep when consumed in larger than recommended portions, but the harsh truth is that using it as good-night juice harms your sleep more than it assists. A moderate to high rate of consumption has been proven to decrease rapid-eye-movement (REM), a phenomenon that occurs during the deepest hours of sleep and is believed to be important to preserve long-term memories.
Lastly, some other things to avoid late into the evening include rich meals (especially those high in fat or protein). Eat and drink healthy throughout the course of a given day and your sleep will thank you later.
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