While there are several strategies, tips, and techniques you can employ at bedtime to promote sleep, there is plenty you can (and SHOULD) do during the daytime. Let's take a look.
Number One: No caffeine, tobacco, or alcohol 6-8 hours before going to bed.
Caffeine and tobacco are both stimulants, and will keep your mind going, and heart pumping faster when you want to sleep.
Some argue that slow-dragging a cigarette right before bed has a calming, relaxing effect that helps them fall asleep. Sure. Initially. But tobacco is still a stimulant and will do what all stimulants do: speed up your heart rate. You might fall asleep quickly, but the quality of your sleep is definitely affected. You will be sleeping fitfully. Since this will kick in within the first hour of sleep, it is going to interfere with the deepest level of sleep you will get that night. There are also a TON of other reasons why you probably shouldn’t be smoking anyway, but that’s somebody else’s course to teach.
So caffeine and tobacco are stimulants. What about alcohol? Alcohol is a depressant, and while it does slow down your system, it also interrupts your body’s natural sleep cycle. You aren’t actually sleeping soundly.
Think of it this way. Say you and a friend are at a party. Your friend is getting hammered. Finally, he drinks so much that he passes out. Great! He’s asleep, right? Alcohol helps you sleep… Not exactly.
While your friend is certainly unconscious, what he is getting can hardly be referred to as sleep. Sleep, when done properly, is restorative in nature. You recharge your batteries, heal, and prepare for a new day of wakeful activity. Your friend is not awake, but he’s not really sleeping either, he’s unconscious.
When consuming large amounts of alcohol your body eventually has enough. It knows that consuming too much more could kill you (alcohol poisoning). Instead of letting that happen, your body hits the emergency shut down button, preventing more alcohol from getting in the body. While you are out, the body works on getting the alcohol out of the body. This is not restful, restorative sleep.
So in short, no caffeine, tobacco, or alcohol at least 6-8 hours before going to bed.
Number Two: No napping!
Unless you can secure 2-3 solid hours of sleep in the early afternoon consistently, do not nap. This will only serve to rob you of sleep at nighttime.
If you don’t sleep well at night, and are tired the next day, resist the urge to nap. You will fall into a deeper sleep than you need, and when it comes time for bed, you won’t sleep well the entire night. Then you’ll be tired the next day and want a nap. Don’t do it. Stay up until (or even close to) bedtime, then sleep the night.
This is my advice if you live in the United States, or other non-siesta countries. If you live in a country where there is a mid-day siesta: participate. Take that couple-hour nap. The adult body is specifically wired to be tired at two key points in the day: at nighttime, and early afternoon.
In a culture where citizens work 9-5 and then have the rest of the day off, naps are not recommended. In a culture where citizen work the first half of the day, honor siesta, and then work until 8 or 9pm, a nap makes sense.
Honestly, a siesta culture makes more sense as far as proper sleep hygiene is concerned. But I live in a non-siesta culture, and so the next best option is to skip the infrequent nap.
Number 3: Be active.
Sometime during the day, do something that is physically demanding. This can be almost anything: sports, running, swimming, exercise, labor intensive work, etc. Use your body, get worn out. The more energy you burn, the better you will sleep at night. Think of children that run around playing all day. They usually conk out pretty good. They’ve been physical.
Now, if you have gone through your day without physical activity, and it’s almost bedtime, I do not recommend going for a run. Your heart rate will increase, and you will not be able to sleep. I would say you need a minimum of at least 2 or 3 hours before bed if you plan to do physical activity. You are going to need a cool down time to relax and bring your heart rate down.
Number 4: Wind down at the end of the day.
I know I said this post was about things to do during the day, and it still is. But, this last one does start to encroach on Bedtime Routine. Still, it is important for you to allow your body and mind to unwind at the end of the day. Do something low key that you enjoy.
This could be taking a warm shower or bath, reading a book, watching TV, playing on the computer, doing a crossword, etc. You get the idea. These activities are important to slow you down until bed time. A quick note that will be covered more in-depth in a later post: don’t do these activities in bed. I’ll get into it more later; but for now, just trust me.
So now you know what to do today to prepare for a good night's sleep tonight.
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