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7 Tips for Your Best Night’s Sleep

In case you haven’t received enough, here’s another reminder that Daylight Savings Time starts this Sunday. Fortunately, in our modern society phones, computers, tablets, TVs, and even some refrigerators automatically update themselves to the correct time (what a time to be alive!), so you’re less likely to be late for any appointments. Unfortunately due to the physical and mental toll of changing our sleep schedule, the risk of heart attacks and car accidents tend to increase around this time of year.

This further highlights the significance of sleep. Here are 7 tips to help you get a good night’s sleep this weekend, and beyond.

1. Exercise!

Odds are if you’re reading this some form of physical activity is already a part of your routine. Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep. When you have a consistent workout schedule you will have more energy throughout the day. Exercise also helps with and/or benefits from all the tips below too!

2. Avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon.

Caffeine affects everyone differently. I can have a double shot of espresso right before bed, and have no trouble falling asleep, whereas if Lesley even looks at green tea after noon she’s going to be counting a few extra sheep later that night. That said, I know, and have noticed, that if I limit my caffeine intake the quality of my sleep improves dramatically. Even if you consider yourself someone that can handle that late afternoon pick me up, try cutting it out, and see how you feel.

3. Avoid alcohol

We sometimes think a drink before bed will help us relax and fall asleep more easily. While this is true, it simultaneously reduces the amount of deep sleep and rest we actually get. Alcohol also negatively impacts improvements in our fitness. All this is to say, while fine for a celebration or other special occasion, alcohol is not a great choice if a restorative night of sleep is what we’re after.

4. Stop eating 2 to 3 hours, and drinking 1 to 2 hours before bedtime.

These recommended timelines to stop eating and drinking are guidelines. Again, everyone’s different. The goal of the eating recommendation is to allow your body adequate time to digest. If your body’s working to process food, you won’t rest as well. Not to mention that it will help avoid commonly linked tummy troubles. Plus, our metabolism slows when we sleep, making late night snacking non-ideal for our body composition goals. The main aim of the drinking suggestion is to limit or eliminate the need to wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Plan when you eat for a better night’s sleep!

5. Stop looking at any screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

This means no TV, computers, tablets, or cell phones 30 minutes before you plan to go to sleep. 30 minutes is the minimum recommended beneficial time. More is better. We also want to minimize light sources and electronics from your sleep space, so let’s keep them out of the bedroom altogether while we’re at it.

In addition to improving the quality of your sleep, leaving your cell phone in a different room can have another added benefit when it comes to discipline. If the alarm goes off, and you have to get up and get out of bed to turn it off, you’ll be a lot less likely to hit snooze.

6. Make your sleep space as dark and quiet as possible.

Cover the windows with thick curtains. Avoid frilly, lacy, somewhat see-through window treatments. Make sure they’re big enough, and that light will not pass through. You don’t need to go full on blackout, but you could. I noticed an immediate difference with Pottery Barn’s Peace & Quiet curtains.

Next eliminate all light sources within the room. Do you have a digital clock by your bed? Consider switching to battery powered analog with your cell phone as a backup (left outside the room, of course). Make sure your new alarm clock is far enough away from where you sleep that the ticking won’t bother you (this could also be just outside your bedroom door too) Think of other electronic devices that have small indicator lights. Even these can interfere with your sleep. They may be emitting a subtle noise too. Remove them from your sleep space if possible, otherwise try repositioning them, or covering them with tape.

Finally, to make things as dark and quiet as possible, try wearing a sleep mask and/or ear plugs. These can take a little getting used to, but it has been a game changer for me. I feel like I fall asleep even more easily with a sleep mask, and generally feel more rested when I wake up. You don’t need to get anything fancy, or expensive. Start cheap when you’re trying either out. If you hate it, you won’t have dropped $35 on useless face gadgets in an attempt to “hack your sleep”.

7. Keep the room relatively cool.

Last, although certainly not least, keep it cool. The ideal temperature for sleeping is around 65°F. There’s a whole range of suggestions, anywhere from 60 to 72°F. Personal preference plays a role. If you “sleep hot”, you probably want to set the thermostat to the low end of this range. You can also try a cooling mattress pad. I haven’t personally tried one of these, however I’ve heard great things from some “hot sleepers”. In addition to improving the quality of your sleep, sleeping cool will also save a few bucks on the energy bill (yes, I’m a dad).

Use these tips to help maintain one of your most important routines this weekend, next week, and beyond. Sweet dreams!

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