By Kristin Yancy
Does anyone actually get 8 hours of sleep anymore? Sleep is such an important part of healthy living, but so often it seems that the world is making due with 5 or 6 hours, or even 3 or 4 hours of nighttime rest. It’s easy to think of reasons why– demanding jobs, family responsibilities, or even a healthy social calendar can keep people from the dream, if you’ll pardon the pun, of a full night’s rest.
There are, of course, the usual suggestions from well-researched and well-meaning sources. Invest in heavy curtains or a sleep mask. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine before bed. Take a warm bath. Practical, perhaps, but not always achievable, especially if the reason for your lack of sleep is caused by an overpacked daily schedule. But then we stumbled upon this article from pickthebrain.com. Read on for some creative suggestions, gleaned both from Pick The Brain and good old fashioned advice, that may help you make the most of your definitely-less-than-8-hours.
1.) Dim The Lights
You may not be ready to board up your windows, but an adjustment to the surrounding light levels before you go to bed can make a big difference on your sleep cycle. If you have an adjustable light switch, knock it down a couple of notches an hour before you hit the hay. If, like yours truly, your nighttime is your computer time, try dimming the brightness of the screen. The low light encourages your brain to release melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel tired and that aids in inducing deep sleep. Additionally, going to bed in this state will help you fall quickly into a more meaningful, restful sleep.
2.) Wake Up At The Same Time Every Day
Ever been so nervous to miss an early flight that you naturally woke up thirty minutes before your first alarm? When you anticipate your wake up time, your body releases more of the hormones that keep you alert. Waking up at a set time can simulate this effect by encouraging the body’s natural instincts to serve as an internal alarm clock, habitually releasing these hormones at the same time each day.
3.) Go For A Morning Walk Or Run
Besides being a good idea for a healthy lifestyle, a great way to get your metabolism going, and a signal to your body to start burning fat, getting a dose of sunlight within the first hour of waking up can help increase alertness. The sunlight you’ll soak in on your morning jog causes the brain to stop producing melatonin, and comes with a healthy serving of vitamin D to boot. Morning fitness not your thing? A portable sun lamp may help replicate similar results.
4.) Step Up Your (Mental) Game
We know what happens if we stick to the same fitness routine. Eventually our bodies adapt to the physical challenge and progress slows (that’s why cross training is so important for dancers!). Our brain progresses in a similar way; challenging, stimulating, and interesting experiences encourage cell growth in the brain while we sleep. So learn something new, start a new project, explore a new place, or do a crossword puzzle– an active brain is a growing brain (and a brain that later wants some rest as much as you do)!
5.) Use a Fan
For light sleepers, the challenge isn’t always falling asleep, it’s staying that way. Earplugs are one solution, but can be uncomfortable and cause internal sounds to amplify. Block out disruptions with a little white noise. The whir of a fan can muffle these distractions without disturbing your restful sleep.