Our next blog series comes from a different kind of book that challenges us in a different kind of way. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, PhD, helps us to understand the science behind sleep and recovery and encourages us to take our sleep just as serious as we take our waking hours. Taking on the challenge of improving our sleep quality and quantity can have a tremendous impact in our life satisfaction, our performance, and in our relationships. The final two blogs of this series will discuss twelve tips for healthy sleep from the National Institute of Health (NIH).
The first and most important tip for healthy sleep is to stick to a sleep schedule that includes a consistent bedtime and wake up time, every day. Humans are creatures of habit and struggle with adjusting to a different schedule. Many of us also think that by sleeping in later on the weekends we will “catch up” on sleep we miss out on during the week, but as we have learned over the past few weeks, sleep doesn’t work like that. It is best for us to set an alarm to go to bed and another to get up at the same time every day. During the weekend, supplement with a nap if you are still tired. The second tip is to try to incorporate exercise earlier in the day. Nighttime exercise keeps our body more awake and affects our ability to fall asleep. Try to exercise no later than 2-3 hours prior to bedtime. The third tip is to avoid caffeine and nicotine for at least eight hours prior to bedtime. These stimulants keep the body awake and often affect our ability to complete our entire cycle of sleep.
Next, the NIH recommends avoiding alcohol before bed because alcohol can affect our ability to get into REM. Alcohol influences our ability to stay asleep as it metabolizes when the effects wear off. We also should avoid large meals and a large quantity of beverages late at night. Snacks are ok, but large and heavy meals may cause indigestion, which impacts the quality of sleep. Drinking a lot of fluid before bed may cause frequent wake-ups and frequent urinations. Finally, if possible, avoid medications that could delay or disrupt sleep. It is important to talk to your health care provider about prescription drugs and even over the counter and herbal medications for common colds or allergies.
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