We all know the importance of sleep as measured by how lousy we feel after a poor night's sleep. We'll begin this blog series on sleep by diving into the neuro-psych literature on how anyone can create and sustain good sleep hygiene. Next, we’ll move on to some tips on avoiding disruptive behaviors for those who struggle with sleep and tips for solving some common sleep issues. We will finish with some general information on how sleep impacts our lives.
1. Exercise in the Morning or Late Afternoon – Exercise decreases the stress response, which can interfere with the sleep cycle. It is probably best to avoid exercising around 2 hours before bedtime because exercise can increase adrenaline and brain activity, which may make it difficult to wind down.
2. Expose yourself to natural light cycles – Exposing yourself to sunlight in the daytime and darkness at night help to naturally set your biological clock. You may have to get a little creative with subbing in artificial light if you live in places with extreme night/day patterns.
3. Routines are important! –There is nothing the human brain likes better than predicting things, so routines are key to creating successful habits. Establish a bedtime routine that is the same every night and in the same order (ex. Book, grooming, shower, bed). Maintaining consistency in your routine is especially important while you are establishing a routine.
4. Establish a waking routine – This is probably more important than your bedtime routine because your brain uses waking time to calculate how much sleep you need and then sends you tiredness cues later in the day. To start, get up at the same time everyday for at least 2 weeks. When you wake, avoid the snooze button and make sure you get as much light as possible either by turning on lights or exposing yourself to sunlight.
5. Associate your bed with sleeping as opposed to struggling to go to sleep and failing - Train yourself to read your tiredness cues and go to bed when you feel sleepy. If you don’t feel sleepy, try doing a non-exciting activity for 20 minutes until you feel more tired and try again.
6. Make your sleep environment pleasant – Go to bed in a clean room with a temperature that is comfortable for you. The goal is to avoid activating your stress response as it can interfere with your sleep cycle and make it harder for you to read your body’s tiredness cues.
7. Take a Warm Bath - Our bodies naturally cool down when we go to sleep and warm when we wake. When you take a warm bath or shower, your body heats up and rapidly cools when you dry off. The rapid cooling sends a signal to your brain to begin the sleep cycle.
8. Get in a Good Headspace - Treat sleep as a targeted action or a healthy behavior that you chose to do and try your best to anticipate that you will have good sleep. Look for upcoming posts on relaxation and mindfulness techniques for sleep.
Marikis, D (2016), Habits of Happy People. Training: Institute for Brain Potential:. Los Banos, CA.
McRae, K (2016) Life Hacks Mastering 16 key habits of Emotionally Resilient People. Training: Institute for Brain Potential: Los Banos, CA.
Ramsay, R & Rostain, A. L. (2015) The Adult ADHD Tool Kit. Second Edition. New York, NY. Routledge.
Ross, M. (2017) Understanding Executive Functions: Focus, Emotional Control, Motivation and Social Intelligence. Training: Institute for Brain Potential: Los Banos, CA.