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  • Writer's pictureAedra

12 Sleep Tips from a Reformed Insomniac

Updated: May 15, 2023

Having difficulty sleeping has been a struggle for me since I was a young child, often due to worries about the meaning of life. As a light sleeper, I was easily disturbed by the slightest noise or flicker of light. However, three events have changed my sleeping: 1. The lockdown during the pandemic made it easier to keep to a regular sleep schedule and taught me the power of routine. 2. I was introduced to a podcast episode about mastering sleep, which made me realize that I was sabotaging my sleep by looking at bright screens in the evening. 3. My graduate research delved into the relationship between sleep and mental health.

I'm excited to share what I learned and hope it'll help you sleep better!

1. Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night or try to stay within in a 30-60 minute window of your usual sleep time. Your body's internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, thrives on regularity. This rhythm regulates our sleep-wake cycle, aligning itself with the day-night cycle. When we adhere to a consistent sleep schedule, it promotes better sleep quality and duration.

2. Create a Sleep-Inducing Environment. Your sleep environment can significantly affect your sleep quality. A cool, dark, and quiet room fosters better sleep. Remove clocks from the room, looking at the time when you can’t sleep can increase sleep anxiety. Wash your sheets once a week, dust mites accumulate in unwashed sheets and are a major culprit for allergies and asthma and can affect your breathing.

3. Limit your Nighttime Light Exposure. Exposure to light at night can disrupt melatonin production. Stop looking at screens 1 hour before bed and dim or turn off the lights 1 hour before bed.

4. Increase your Day Time Light Exposure. Get outside in sunlight for 5-30 minutes first thing in the morning when the sun is still low in the sky. Natural outdoor sunlight helps set your circadian clock, light through sunglasses or windows does not provide adequate levels (lux) of light to set your clock. If you can, continue to spend as much time as you can outdoors.

5. Limit Alcohol Consumption. Alcohol may have a sedative effect but it actually disrupts the quality of your sleep. If sleep is the main concern and you have to have a drink, you're better off having it 12 hours before bed. Morning margaritas anyone? I know this isn’t realistic for some people, so at least try to limit the amount you consume.

6. Avoid Stimulants in the Afternoon Stimulants such as caffeine can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Stop having caffeine 10-12 hours before your bedtime. Caffeine stays in your system for a long time and you want it to be mostly cleared by the time you go to bed. Caffeine is a well-known antagonist of adenosine receptors. Adenosine, a sleep-promoting chemical in the brain, accumulates during the day and decreases during sleep. By blocking adenosine, caffeine can disrupt the signal to sleep.

6. Regular Physical Activity. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep. However, timing is crucial - vigorous exercise too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, which increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine and cortisol.

7. Manage Stress. Chronic stress or worry can interfere with sleep. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga have been shown to improve sleep by reducing the production of cortisol, the body's primary stress hormone, which can disrupt sleep. Try not to work within the last hour before bed. Working can increase stress levels and the last hour before bed should be stress free.

8. Establish a Pre-Sleep Routine. Engaging in a relaxing activity right before bed, away from bright lights, can help separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress, or anxiety, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.

9. Limit Daytime Naps. Long daytime naps can interfere with your nighttime sleep. Napping can decrease the “sleep drive”, the pressure that builds throughout the day to help us fall asleep. However, a short nap of 20-30 minutes can improve mood, alertness, and performance without affecting nighttime sleep.

10. If You Can’t Sleep, Get Out of Bed. Instead read a boring book or do some stretching and try not to look at a screen.

11. Stop Keeping Score. If tracking your sleep is causing you anxiety, stop doing it.

12. Don’t Do Other Things in Bed. aside from sleep and sex.

Dive Deeper:

-Why we Sleep by Matthew Walker

-Andrew Huberman Podcast episodes 2 and 84



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