To me, the period between Christmas and the New Year always feels very restorative. Many of us benefit from time off work, more quality time with friends and family, less rushing, more resting and often more sleeping!
The amount of sleep each of us needs differs from person to person, but we all need sleep to recover from the daily stresses of life. There’s a reason for the old saying that everything looks better after a good night’s sleep.
Some people think it’s possible to sleep less on weekdays and then to make up for lost time on the weekend, but the truth is you can’t “recover” lost sleep. It’s much better to prioritize getting a good night’s rest as often as possible instead of trying to bank those hours for the future.
So, here are a few tips to help you get the best sleep possible.
1. Minimize your exposure to light.
Even minimal amounts of light can affect your production of melatonin and the all-important and necessary reduction in your cortisol levels. Not only can this affect the quality and quantity of your sleep, but it can also cause you to put on weight!
- Keep the room as dark as possible by using dark curtains or blackout drapes, especially on windows that greet the morning sun.
- If you are travelling or sleeping in a room where the windows let in a lot of light, wear an eye or sleep mask to help protect your eyes from ambient and morning light.
- Be sure to cover up and/or remove light-producing equipment such as alarm clocks. My alarm clock is very bright so I keep a book in front of it to block the light. It also keeps me from staring at the clock while time marches on.
2. Reduce your use of electronic and other devices.
For many of the same reasons above, electronic and digital devices like cell phones, TVs, computers and others can stimulate your brain instead of relax it.
3. Keep to a regular schedule.
This means going to bed and waking up at the same times every day, even on weekends.
4. Time your exercise properly.
It’s usually best to work out earlier in the day or no later than three hours before bedtime. Exercise encourages your body to secrete cortisol, which stimulates your nervous system instead of relaxes it.
5. Keep your room cool.
A well-ventilated room set at a cool temperature supports the increases and decreases in your body’s temperature as it goes through the full sleep cycle.
6. Eat and drink right.
- First, light suppers are easier for your body to digest and can help improve the quality of your sleep.
- Say no to sugar and carb-only snacks before bed, which can send your blood sugar on a roller coaster overnight, leading to hypoglycemia. Include food sources of protein to help blood sugar levels remain stable all night. (I’ll go into more depth about the best foods for sleep in a future post!)
- Say no to caffeine and foods that may contain it, such coffee, tea, green tea, chocolate and soft drinks. Saying no to alcohol is also wise, because contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not support healthy sleep.
7. Establish a peaceful bedtime routine.
Instead of watching TV or eating dessert, consider any of the following, which make for a better bedtime and better sleep now and in the future:
- Relaxing bath (helps increase then decrease body temperature, ideal for preparing for bed)
- Yoga, gentle stretching or other relaxing exercise
- Reading a light, fun, non-serious book
- Massage (my favourite!)
Hopefully these tips can help you enjoy a better, longer, more restorative sleep. For more serious problems like sleep apnea or chronic insomnia, it’s always best to see your doctor or primary care provider for recommendations.
Do you have a favourite tip that helps you sleep soundly? Share it with me below!
Life is a plate… Eat up!