By not sleeping enough, we accumulate sleep debt. Sleep debt is bad for health and happiness. Studies have found it can take up to a month of unrestricted sleep to rebalance oneself.
TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS
- Light, especially the bluish light from screens, have been shown to suppress hormones like melatonin that promote sleepiness. Black-out shades and orange-colored nightlights are ideal.
- Adjust the thermostat for cooler temperatures at night regardless of season. 60-70 F is ideal range.
Warm room temperatures above 75F often lead to sleep disruption.
- Our bodies are very sensitive to temperature as we sleep, especially during REM stage. Feeling hot or cold tends to wake us up and produce more restless sleep.
- Climate control is the most important function of sheets and bedding as body temperature affects the flow of our circadian rhythms.
- The human system loves a consistent schedule which leads to longer REM and deep-sleep stages.
- Sleeping in on the weekend can be counter-productive and lead to what is called “weekend jet lag.”
- Exercise is beneficial leading to deeper levels of sleep, reduced waking and improved mood the next day. Even 2-3 days a week of moderate exercise can improve sleep.
- Napping is natural and effective way to recharge the brain. A 20 min nap can increase productivity by 30% or more because deep and REM sleep consolidate the memory and enhance learning. Limit naps to 20 minutes unless you can sleep a full, uninterrupted 90-min sleep cycle. Waking in the middle of a deep-sleep cycle can leave you feeling more tired and groggy than taking no nap.
- Dozing in front of the TV leads to poor-quality sleep as changes from light to dark and noise are disruptive to deep sleep (your brain still processes such stimuli even in sleep).
- Don’t go to bed hungry. A small snack (~200 calories) of light protein and carbs like cereal before bed is ideal for calming and keeping you asleep by maintaining blood glucose levels through the night.
- Alcohol is the world’s most common “sleep aid.” But the increased drowsiness wears off quickly as a rebound effect leads to increased waking, sleep fragmentation, night sweats and poorer sleep.
- Caffeinated foods and drink are best consumed before 3pm to insure no effect on sleep. The “half-life” of caffeine in the body is 5-8 hours so it can regularly disrupt sleep for many.