How to Improve Your Sleep: Part 2

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In part 1 of this 3 part series on how to improve your sleep, I talked about all the things you can do during the day to set yourself up for a successful night of sleep. If you haven’t read it yet make sure you do. In this article (part 2), you will learn about the do’s and don’t before you go to bed.

Do’s and Don’t’s before you go to bed:

What you do 2-3 hours before going to bed has a huge impact on your ability to fall asleep, how much sleep you end up getting and the quality of your sleep. Below are tips that help support your sleep.

Establish a bedtime routine:
Let your body know that it is time to sleep by having a bedtime routine. How long that is is going to be and what exactly you are doing is up to you. It could be anything from taking a bath to reading or doing gentle yoga exercises. Pick an activity you like, that is calming and helps you to wind down.
Calm your mind:
We have all been there. Suddenly wide awake planning the next day, month or even years and thinking about all the things that need to get done. Get any thoughts that could hinder you from being able to relax down on paper. For example, write a to-do list or reminders so that you can enter bedtime with a calm mind. Bedtime meditation can be another great tool to relax your mind.
Avoid blue lights:
Remember the circadian rhythm from part 1 of this series? Light, especially blue light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a crucial hormone for sleep. To not confuse your hormones and send signals to your brain that it is daytime, make sure to avoid blue lights close to bedtime. Dim your lights, light some candles and or use light bulbs with a red tone in places where you need light in the evening. A great way to avoid the exposure of blue light is to wear amber glasses a few hours before going to bed, as these block blue lights. Especially if you really have to be on your electronic devices, since these emit a lot of blue light. As an alternative make sure to switch your electronic devices to the night mode and choose the warmest tone. You can set it up to switch automatically when the sun goes down. Although this is a step in the right direction this study shows that it does not block blue lights and amber glasses are still the best option.
Avoid stimulating activities:
This could be anything from watching a horror or action movie to reading or talking about things that make you very excited or anxious. This is also not the time to start planning your financial future. Even social gatherings can hype you up a lot and make it more difficult to go to bed. This again is highly individual, so start paying attention to your triggers and try to avoid these close to bedtime.
Skip electronic devices:
Establishing an electronic device curfew a few hours before going to bed can be a great way to not only get your body ready to sleep but also make time for self-care, connecting to your partner or family. If you think you don’t have enough time for sleep, start paying attention to how much time a day you spend on your phone, especially on social media. As mentioned above electronic devices emit blue lights that interfere with your ability to sleep. And even if you are using amber glasses, if you are using devices to work or watch/read anything that stimulates your brain, you are not sending the right signals to your brain that it is time to sleep soon. Give the “no electronics before bedtime” a try and pay attention to how it impacts your life.
Avoid sugar:
As mentioned in part 1, maintaining regulated blood sugar levels is important for your sleep. Eating sugar close to bedtime will make your blood sugar levels spike, which makes it hard to fall asleep, and can cause crashes (low blood sugar) at night which will disrupt your sleep. If sugar cravings are an issue for you, reevaluate what you eat during the day. Talk to a health coach or nutritionist to help you with your cravings.
Avoid eating close to bedtime:
The general recommendation is to eat 2-3 hours before bedtime, in order to allow enough time for your body to start digesting your food. Lying down too soon after eating a large meal can cause heartburn which disrupts sleep. Exceptions are if you are having issues with blood sugar regulation, then a small snack made of protein and fat before bedtime can be helpful.
Avoid alcohol:
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 20 percent of Americans use alcohol as a sleeping aid. While it can make you drowsy and make you fall asleep easier, it is actually affecting the quality of your sleep negatively. Alcohol blocks REM sleep, an important stage of your sleep, it can interrupt your circadian rhythm, lead to snoring or sleep apnea. And because alcohol is a diuretic it can directly interrupt your sleep by making you run to the bathroom at night.
Avoid naps close to bedtime:
Together with the circadian rhythm, your sleep drive (sleep homeostasis) is responsible for your sleep/wake cycle. The longer you have been awake the stronger your sleep drive becomes, which is partially what makes you sleepy. Scientists think that it has to do with the buildup of adenosine in the brain. To make sure you have enough sleep drive build up it is not advised to take a nap close to bedtime, as this can make it difficult to fall asleep. Naps during the day, however, can be a great idea for some, especially if you are sleep deprived or a parent of a young child.

Find out how to establish the best sleeping environment in part 3, the final part of this 3 part series.

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