How to Set Yourself Up for a Good Night's Sleep

May 08, 2016

Sleeping Woman
 
Sleeping well is a habit many of us have lost. Sleep is both reward for a day well-lived and preparation for the day to come. It should be given the proper care and attention to set the tone for the rest of our lives. Here are some things to consider to ensure that we wake up refreshed and ready to take on a day:
 
Avoid Blue Screens
 
As day turns to night, the decreased exposure to light signals to our body that we are inching closer to bedtime. The body naturally releases the hormone melatonin to help regulate our circadian rhythms and signal that it is time to rest, with peak melatonin levels in the middle of the night. 
 
Exposure to blue light-emitting devices like tablets or smartphones disrupt this cycle. Like light from LED and fluorescent bulbs, this shorter-wavelength light is meant to mimic the sun. It is better suited to promoting alertness earlier in the day, like in classrooms and offices. This is why our bodies are able to “wake up” in reaction to morning sunlight exposure even without setting an alarm.
 
What we need later in the day is warmer, longer wavelength light that is more reddish and yellow in hue - like light at sunset - that signals to our bodies when it's time to wind down. This is why it’s important to reduce the use of tablets, smartphones, and television before bedtime. You can also install apps like f.lux on your devices to soften the harsh glare of blue light. f.lux accounts for your geographical location and your standard wake up and bedtime to adjust the color settings to the appropriate tint according to the time of day. 
 
Increase Sunlight Exposure
 
Some sleepers deprived of natural melatonin due to their lifestyle habits opt for taking a melatonin supplement before bed, or eating high-melatonin foods like tomatoes, rice, and walnuts. A better option is to essentially stockpile your doses of natural melatonin earlier in the day by spending enough time out in the sun. Sunlight exposure produces serotonin in the body, a hormone that eventually converts to melatonin at night.
 
Relax Your Mind
 
Our exposure to devices has a secondary impact that can disrupt our sleep - the overload of information. After a day’s worth of notifications, stimulation, and communication, the brain needs time to process everything. It’s important to establish a bedtime routine to wind down instead of going to sleep with a racing, overthinking mind. 
 
One way is to practice journaling before bed. Spending a few minutes to unload your thoughts can reduce any stress and anxiety built up during the day. Meditation before bed is also a good way to slow your mind from its usual state of productivity. 
 
Exercise Regularly
 
The stimulating effects of exercise increases alertness and adrenaline during the day, reducing factors like anxiety and depression that make it difficult to sleep. The brain also compensates for the physical stress accumulated during the day by increasing the time you spend in deep rest. 
 
Optimize Your Bedroom
 
Your bedroom should be kept cool, dark, and quiet, the three factors you want when sleeping. The bedroom should be reserved only for sleep - by avoiding work, television, or computer use, your brain will associate your bedroom only with sleep, making it easier to wind down at night. Of course, your bed should be the most comfortable place in the home. Experiment with different types of firmness, mattress toppers, pillows, comforters, and sheets to find your happiest medium. For more on the basics of bedding, visit our blog Growing out of Pillows and Blankets



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