7 things you can do during the day to sleep better at night

7 things you can do during the day to help you sleep better at night by Jeffrey Field
November 2, 2017

When Daylight Saving Time ends Sunday morning, we’ll get back the precious hour we banked in the spring. Most of us look forward to sleeping it away.

The thought of an extra hour of sleep is enticing, but what if you were able to feel more rested every night?

The University of Kansas Health System Integrative Medicine wants to help you make the most of your sleeping hours. As the autumnal time change forces us to reset our body clocks, this may be an ideal time to adjust some behaviors that interfere with the body’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Emily Day, an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) in the Integrative Medicine clinic at The University of Kansas Health System, says a good night’s sleep often depends on things you do while you’re awake.

She said if you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, consider these seven steps:

Exercise 30-60 minutes per day

Day suggests doing workouts that leave you feeling energized and not exhausted. Working yourself ragged may sound like a good way to tire yourself out, but feeling depleted can actually lead to anxiety and sleep difficulty.

Walking, jogging, Pilates, yoga and swimming are all exercises that – when done at moderate paces – can give you a post-workout boost that won’t leave you feeling drained.

If your schedule allows, also try to avoid working out after dinner or too close to bedtime. Your body needs time to wind down and cool down. Being overheated from a workout makes it hard to fall asleep.

Avoid eating too much sugar

Eating balanced meals and avoiding added sugar can help improve your sleep, Day said. Sugar can also deplete your supply of magnesium, which helps calm the mind and prepare the body for sleep. Too much sugar also boosts our cortisol and adrenaline, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Watch your alcohol consumption

Alcohol has an initial calming, depressive effect on us. But Day said it metabolizes into a stimulant and can wake us up. Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to inflammation, which can cause insomnia and difficulty staying asleep.

Stay hydrated

Your body can’t function properly if it’s not hydrated. Dehydration can also hamper the production of melatonin, the hormone your body uses to prepare it for sleep.

Day says a typical person should drink half his or her body weight in ounces of water. For example, a 140-pound person should be drinking about 70 ounces of water every day.

This recommended amount should be even higher if you drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages – or if you’re athletic.

De-stress during the day

If you struggle with anxiety, look for ways throughout the day to relax in 10-15 minute chunks so that anxiety doesn’t build.

“Anxiety during the day can rear its ugly head at night,” Day said.

Stretching, meditation, tai chi, prayer and guided relaxation exercises are all easy ways to give yourself a brief break from the stresses of daily life.

If your anxiety seems out of control, your Integrative Medicine provider can suggest some key supplements to help.

Track your sleep

Discuss with your health care provider whether you should consider home sleep studies to measure how much sleep interruption you experience at night. Tests may help diagnose sleep apnea or similar problems that might explain your restless nights or why you wake up feeling tired.

Your provider might also recommend a FitBit or similar wearable activity tracker to help you measure your sleep success.

See the light

Especially during the fall and winter months, you’ll want to get some exposure to natural light during the day. Your body relies on sunshine to regulate its sleep cycles. Your pineal gland begins producing melatonin as it starts to get dark out.

This time of year, many people commute to and from work in the dark and won’t see the sun from their offices at all. If this is how it is for you, Day recommends eating lunch at your desk and using the rest of your lunch hour to walk outside for some exposure.
You can also buy a full-spectrum light that can give you exposure at your office or home. Desk lamps or more expensive light boxes are good options for 30 minute doses of light therapy when you can't get outside. Experts say using these lights in the morning hours usually led to the best results.

The University of Kansas Health System Integrative Medicine can help you find lifestyle changes to improve your sleep. Call 913-588-6208 to make an appointment with Emily Day or another member of our team.

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