I don’t know about you guys, but its getting to be the time of year where school and life really picks up and becomes challenging, especially when it comes to getting enough sleep. Between my internship, research job, classes, and getting my thesis done, I have no free time, and I find myself getting to bed late and getting up early so that I can squeeze my workouts in. On top of that, even when I get to bed on time, my mind is racing with everything I have to accomplish the next day, that I just can’t turn it off and fall asleep. If any of this sounds like you, here are some tips to make sure you get a good night’s sleep.
- Get enough slumber time. Studies show that chronic sleep deprivation, which is defined in the sleep world as less than 6 hours a night, can negatively affect your health and weight. Make sure you at least get 6 hours of sleep a night, so that you don’t further your risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.
- Don’t get too much. People who regularly got more than 9 hours of sleep every night have the same problems. Six to eight hours a night seems to be the magic number.
- Pick a time. Theres a part of your brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or the SCN, that controls your circadian rhythm. So even if you get 6-8 hours of sleep in a night, if you went to bed at 3 and woke up at 12, and then the next day to go bed at 10 and wake up at 6, you’re never going to feel rested because your circadian rhythm is going to be completely off. Your brain likes patterns. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, at least during the week days, and you’ll feel more rested overall. Its science.
- Drop the temperature. To 67 degrees or lower. At bed time, people usually sleep better when its cool, likely due to the decrease in snoring and apnea in cooler temperatures. In addition, sleeping in a cooler house at night helps your body develop more brown fat, which is good for your metabolism. Before you get cold though…
- Get hot. Warming your core temperature by a few degrees is showing promise at my university to improve sleep quality. Take a hot bath, or relax with a heating pad a few hours before (not RIGHT before) you go to bed for a deeper, more restful sleep. Speaking of getting hot…
- Sex has also been shown to improve sleep quality. Must be those endorphins.
- Exercise early. People who exercised at 7 in the morning slept better than afternoon and night time exercisers. Theres a lot of reasons this works better, but the main one could be to do with blood pressure. Exercising early gives you a longer sustained lowered blood pressure, which means your heart and autonomic system have to work less to relax come bed time. Exercising early also helps wake you up for the rest of the day. People who exercised in the morning felt more alert during their work day than people who exercised after work.
- Lay off the caffeine. This may seem obvious, but different people have different tolerances and reactions to caffeine. Caffeine can affect some people upwards of 8 hours. Additionally, caffeine heightens sympathetic nervous activity, aka your body’s “fight or flight” mode, which can make is more difficult to fall asleep. Switch to decaf after 12. Usually the sensory stimulus of coffee is enough to perk you back up if you need the boost.
- Skip late night munchies. Snacking and having alcohol right before bed can spike your blood sugar, which will turn on your body’s sympathetic nervous system again so that your food can be used or stored. Only snack if you’re reeeeeeally hungry (to the point that your hunger will keep you up), and keep it light. Or have some milk instead, the protein in milk can fill you up til morning.
- Finally, Don’t believe in “sleep dept.” Research has disproved sleep dept. You cannot make up lost sleep. Go ahead and get an extra hour or two on the weekend, but if you had a tough week, sleeping 12 hours a night on the weekend is just going to make the following week’s sleep feel less restful.