Spring is just around the corner... although, depending on where you live, that may not feel like the case. Nonetheless, it’s just about time to take a soapy brush to some of those areas that may have been neglected during winter’s dormancy.
Each year, we blindly follow some inborn force that drives us to pick up a pencil and paper, create a “to do” list, and systematically navigate said list until all items have been addressed. This month, millions of crawl spaces will be organized, legions of oven ranges will be made to shine, and countless tools will find their designated home in garages all over the world.
Why should Sleep be any different? For many, perhaps it is just as easy as closing your eyes and dreaming simply because darkness has fallen. For others, peaceful rest doesn’t come so easy.
I believe sleep should be just another itemized task on a list of things-to-do. So what better time of the year to clear out any cobwebs that may be preventing a good night’s rest? Since the goal is to make sleep simply another part of a daily routine, it is imperative to strategically line up a chain of events that are more likely to make this a reality.
Thus, the first step for your Sleep Spring Cleaning is to make a checklist. If you need inspiration, ORA Horizon offers one here: but be sure to personalize yours. Just like a checklist can make getting to that messy basement more likely, it can be just as vital to your rest. It offers accountability and instant gratification every time a task box is checked. Read below to learn more about Sleep Spring Cleaning.
Make your Checklist. Make yours your own. The goal is to have the last item on your list, great sleep, a natural end to your daily routine. Overtime, hitting every item on your checklist makes meaningful rest second nature. Additionally, the tasks leading up to sleep should all promote a restful environment.
The following tips are examples of activity you can add to your checklist that will help you get the sleep you deserve.
Set a Screen Time Limit. TVs, cellphones, tablets, etc. all provide a stimulatory effect that is counterproductive to good rest. Ideally, the bedroom should be for sleep and sex only. Removing the aforementioned items from your sleep environment should yield instant results. If this act is not possible, simply have a firm TV cut-off time, charge your phone away from the bed, and leave tablets in another room.
Use Light to Your Advantage. Light, both artificial and natural, has a stimulatory effect. Conversely, its absence promotes restfulness. Make your sleeping quarters as dark as possible. Blackout drapes can keep out unwanted city lights; layering regular curtains is a more cost effective solution. When you rise, let in natural sunlight to help you awaken.
Control Your Bedroom Temperature. The ideal temperature for rest is around 65oF. This can be chilly, particularly in colder months. To combat this, sleep with socks, thicker PJs, or an extra blanket.
Cancel-out Unwanted Noise with More (White) Noise. White noise can obstruct the barking dogs, busy streets, or unruly neighbors that may prevent your peaceful rest. Generating white noise can be as simple as turning on a fan. Alternatively, there are apps or playlists with soothing sounds that can help you achieve the rest you deserve.
Exercise. Preferably as early as possible. This activity increases the likelihood of good rest… unless it is performed later in the day. If evening sessions are unavoidable, opt for more relaxing physical activity like yoga or Tai Chi.
Make Your Bed! Checking this box first thing in the morning provides a sense of accomplishment, while also making sleep more appealing come bedtime.
Use Naps to Your Advantage. It may seem juvenile to pencil in a nap, but when done properly, it can be an effective tool. For the best benefits, ensure your nap is no longer than 30 minutes and no later than 3pm. Napping longer, or later in the day, will lead to grogginess and can also adversely affect your sleep.
Caffeine. This stimulant can be found in sodas, energy drinks, black tea, chocolate, and coffee. Natural, sugar free sources are optimal, but be sure to limit intake later in the day as the stimulatory effects that allow for enhanced energy are the same that can keep you tossing and turning all night.
Seek the Opinion of a Health Care Professional. Just like riding a bike or tying shoelaces can take countless attempts to become second nature, great sleep takes time to become routine. If, however, you feel that despite consistent efforts your sleep is still subpar, it may be time to seek advice. The sources of troublesome sleep are innumerable; a professional may be helpful in identifying the issue.
Remember, practice makes perfect!
Anthony Dugarte, M.D.