November 02, 2017
Getting a good night's sleep often depends on things you do while you're awake. If you're having trouble getting quality rest, consider these 7 strategies.
Exercise 30-60 minutes per day
According to Emily Day, an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) at The University of Kansas Health System, you should engage in workouts that leave you feeling energized but 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 says. 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 cotisol 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 says 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.
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.
Days 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 anxiety doesn't build.
"Anxiety during the day can rear its ugly head at night," Day says.
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 medical provider may suggest some key supplements to help.
Track your sleep
Discuss with your healthcare 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 leads to the best results.