As I sit here sleep deprived, it’s time to revisit how important sleep is for good health. Sleep deprivation is linked to weight gain, anxiety, depression, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers. So, it’s time to review some easy things that we can all do during the day that can help improve our sleep quality, which will ultimately improve our energy, vitality, productivity, and overall feeling of well-being.
- Go outside. Getting daylight helps regulate hormones and support our regular sleep-wake rhythm. Try to get outside at least 20 minutes each day. If you can’t get outside, at least try to get exposure to daylight by early or mid-morning.
- Time your caffeine. If you can’t seem to function without caffeine, at least cut it off 12-14 hours before you go to bed. Do the math and you’ll realize that the after lunch coffee you’ve been getting isn’t such a great idea. Caffeine has a half-life of about 6 hours. That means half the caffeine is still present in your system 6 hours after you consume it.
- Exercise. Feeling rested will increase the likelihood that you will exercise. Exercise will improve sleep. This is a continuous loop. One begets the other. You can combine this with #1 and get double the benefit by exercising outdoors after the sun has come up.
- Alcohol. There is a common misconception that alcohol promotes sleep. This is not true. Alcohol will segment your sleep and lead to wakefulness throughout the night. This can ultimately hurt your memory as well so skip that happy hour or socialize with a friend by going for a walk.
- Electronics. Work doesn’t belong in the bedroom. Avoid screens at least an hour before bed. Go to Goodwill and buy a cheap alarm clock or used books so you aren’t reading with a device that gives off light. Blue light reduces and delays the secretion of melatonin which is necessary for good sleep.
I’m sure many adults, and most parents I know, would love to get more sleep. Sometimes our lifestyles leave it harder to get in bed at the time that we would like to. Give yourself permission to prioritize sleep and consider trying these simple lifestyle tricks. Everyone in your household could benefit.