We all want to live better in 2016 – eat well; drink less; exercise more. But what about our sleep routines?
Following the busy Christmas period, it’s likely that many of us will be left feeling tired, exhausted or wired. This can later wreak havoc with our sleep patterns way into the new year, leading to lethargic mornings, impaired memory and focus, low moods and – that’s right – even the common cold.
But there are several steps you can take to reset your sleep pattern and feel good following the stress and excitement of December. Start incorporating these and get ready to give 2016 everything you’ve got!
1, Resist the urge to sleep in
Even if you’ve had a late night or didn’t sleep well, avoid sleeping in during the last few days of Christmas break. You want to be sleepy enough to be able to fall asleep the following night, so get up your usual time and head to bed earlier that evening.
2, Exercise earlier in the day
Exercising too close to bedtime can increase heart rate and circulation to the point where it’s difficult to drift off. Try exercising earlier in the day, or in the morning if you can, to give yourself more time to wind down later on.
3, Avoid heavy meals and snacking before bed
The festive period is notorious for late night snacking and indulgent foods before bed, but you should start to curb your eating habits back to normal as January nears. Try and have your last main meal of the day at least two hours before bed to allow your body time to digest. If you need a bedtime snack, keep it balanced and under 500 calories. Try these sleep-inducing bedtime snacks for inspiration.
4, Employ a no-tech curfew
It’s no surprise by now that using technology too close to bedtime inhibits melatonin – that all-important hormone that tells our brain it’s time to sleep. Aim to ditch all technology at least an hour before bed, and use that time instead to read, meditate, or enjoy a soothing drink.
If you must use your gadget before bed, turn the screen brightness down as far as you can or use a third party app like F.lux to inhibit harsh blue light.
5, Avoid caffeine 5-6 hours before bed
Again, another obvious one. As caffeine can stay in our system up to 7-10 hours, it’s important to have your last cup of the day around 4pm, or even 2pm.
6, Block out all distractions
If you’re a light sleeper; have a partner that wakes before you do or just want to fall asleep faster, you should work to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Try earplugs and a comfy sleep mask to reduce noise and light disruptions, and ensure your room is as dark as possible to better induce sleep.
Finding Your Personal Sleep Window
There is really no set number for how many hours of sleep you need – only you will be able to figure out what’s best for you. Try bringing your bedtime forwards by 15 minutes each night over a period of a few days or weeks (depending on how well you adjust). Once you’re waking up without your alarm consistently over the course of a week (weekend included!), congratulations – you’ve found your optimum sleep window.
Sure, it may not be easy, but sticking to your body’s natural routine will do wonders for your health and mood. By employing the tips outlined above, you should be able to create a reliable bedtime routine that enables you to drift off easily when the time comes. If one thing doesn’t work one night, simply tweak it to something that does. If you must sleep in on weekends, try to keep it within a 2 hour window of your usual wake-up time. Remember that consistency is the key!