“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” – Ernest Hemingway
Frankly it’s not that my life falls apart when I’m awake, it’s that it falls apart when I haven’t slept. Then, last year Deepak Chopra, made it abundantly clear to me,
“If you are trying to meditate and you fall asleep, then sleep. It means you need to sleep.”
That’s the bottom line. Research touting the benefits of adequate sleep span the map from enhanced athletic performance to better weight loss to improved memory. I’ve read numerous articles to prepare for this post and it appears that the definition of adequate is at least 6 and a half hours each night although it varies tremendously by person. Here are 10 things you might consider to improve yours:
1. Try to maintain a fairly consistent schedule. I’ve learned this the hard way. I stay up too late on Friday nights thinking that I’ll sleep-in on Saturday. I don’t and hence, the cycle begins. Our bodies like routines.
2. Avoid caffeine after 2 pm. Everyone is different but for me, it means chocolate too.
3. Leave the TV out of the bedroom. Not only does having a TV in your sleeping room have a tendency to keep you up later, but there are studies that show it may disrupt your sleep cycles.
4. Don’t drink more than 1 alcoholic beverage in the evening. Again, your tolerance levels are very personal and will change depending upon your weight and the length of your evening. Studies confirm that alcohol helps one to fall asleep and may even produce deeper sleep in the first half of the night but then causes restlessness in later hours and reduces REM (the good stuff).
5. Get some exercise – preferably earlier in the day. Adding exercise to your regular schedule has shown to cause better sleep. However, Runner’s World reports that it’s the individuals with the morning exercise routines that are reporting the most sound nights.
6. Eat some carbs. Yeah, I know. They’re out of fashion. Bread, potatoes, pasta – all my glorious comfort foods. These foods contain tryptophan, an amino acid that causes drowsiness. Just don’t overdo it as being overweight is another contributor to sleep problems.
7. Hand it over. So easy to say and yet, the hardest to put into practice but no amount of midnight fretting is going to get that work issue resolved or cause my kid’s chemistry grade to rise. Put it out there, hang it on the worry tree, write it down, give it to God; whatever your belief system, practice letting go.
8. Set the temperature correctly. Again, this is different for everyone but I often turn off the AC in the rooms when I am traveling. Beyond the constant hum during the night, I don’t enjoy drying out the air that much. Here in the desert however, I do let the AC work at night. Regardless, being too hot or too cold can affect sleep.
9. Consider keeping a sleep diary. This goes hand in hand with a food diary and you may be able to draw some correlations between types of meals that affect your sleep. There are also numerous new gadgets on the market that claim to track your sleep habits.
10. Determine what noise level works for you. A few years ago, we went to a family camp for our summer vacation. Concerned about the noise level where we’d be staying, I borrowed a friend’s sound machine and set it to “waves” each night. While I haven’t done this recently, I found that I really enjoyed falling asleep this way. On a recent stay at the La Posada, the hotel offered ear plugs due to the proximity of the train.