While getting seven to eight hours of sound sleep each night is easier said than done, there are adjustments you can make to improve your odds of a good night’s sleep. And what you do in the hours before you go to bed could matter most.
More than 90 percent of Americans use electronic communications in the hour before they go to bed. Allowing such stressors into your pre-sleep time is only going to keep you awake. A 2014 study suggests that late-night smartphone use is bad for your work the following day. This research found that using a smartphone late at night not only leads to poor sleep but also creates fatigue and lower engagement in the workplace.
The light from electronic devices alone can suppress your melatonin levels by as much as 20 percent, which makes it hard to fall asleep, decreases your sleep quality, and can even increase your risk for high blood pressure and diabetes.
To avoid that, impose a moratorium on all electronic devices in the hour before your normal bedtime. When it comes to the rest of the day, consider your use of indoor lighting. Open the blinds and keep lighting bright during the day.
Use “cool white” light bulbs near 6500K in color temperature, which are designed to mimic natural daylight, in areas where you work. These bulbs emit additional light from the blue part of the spectrum versus the yellowish light from traditional incandescent bulbs. This blue-toned electrical light and natural sunlight slow melatonin production and help you be more alert.
Creating the right environment in your bedroom can also give you a head start on a good night’s sleep. Use “warm” or more yellow-colored lighting closer to 3000K in color temperature in your bedroom or other areas where you spend your time in the evening. Then turn all artificial lighting down during evening hours. Avoiding bright and blue-toned light in the evening allows your body to produce extra melatonin and helps you sleep. Relying on natural light or simply dimming your lights late in the day (dimmers are relatively inexpensive and save electricity) will improve your sleep quality.
Research has shown that it is easier to sleep in a room that is a few degrees cooler than the temperature you are accustomed to throughout the day. The reduced temperature prevents your natural body clock from waking you up in the middle of the night. Another good idea is to eliminate nighttime television in your bedroom — or to not put a television in your bedroom at all. If you are used to falling asleep watching TV, try to break that habit.
If your sleep is often disrupted by random sounds, use a white-noise app or device to keep noises from waking you throughout the night. Creating a routine in which you eliminate as much variance as possible is critical for a good night of sleep.
Prioritize seven to eight hours of high-quality sleep ahead of all else. You will be more likely to have a good workout, get more done at your job, and treat your loved ones better when you put sleep first. Keep in mind that every hour of sleep does not cost you in terms of efficiency. Instead, it will give you a positive charge for the upcoming day.
Adapted from Eat Move Sleep and Are You Fully Charged by Tom Rath
Woman stretching photo available from Shutterstock