by Dr. Robert Rosenberg, medical adviser to SoClean
Getting a good night’s sleep is largely a matter of strengthening your natural circadian rhythm, a 24-hour cycle of sleepiness and alertness that’s unique to everyone. Getting in touch with this “internal clock” means cultivating darkness, relaxation, coolness and drowsiness when you want to be asleep—but also encouraging light, activity, warmth and alertness when you want to be awake. Here are five things you can do in the morning hours to have a much better night’s sleep:
1. Get up at the same time every day, even on the weekends.
No one likes to hear this, but it can be counterproductive to “catch up” on sleep by sleeping in on the weekends. There’s a biochemical explanation: A sleep-inducing neuromodulator called adenosine builds up in your central nervous system the longer you are awake. If you sleep until noon on Sunday, you may find it much harder to get to sleep at your usual 10 p.m. bedtime, simply because you’ve been awake for only 10 hours, rather than the 15 to 16 the body expects.
2. Get some sunshine within an hour of waking up.
Your body is programmed to respond to bright light, one of its natural signals that it’s daytime. So another way to strengthen the circadian rhythm is to get outside in the sun first thing in the morning. When you’re exposed to the sun’s light, the body suppresses the hormone melatonin, which wakes you up. You might think your kitchen lights are bright enough to do the job, but they deliver around 250 lux (a measure of illuminance) compared with 10,000 lux from the morning sun. It’s also a good idea to open the curtains to let in more natural light throughout the day; studies have shown that people whose work environments are bathed in sunlight sleep better than those stuck in dark cubicles.
3. Front-load your eating and drinking.
Your body can’t wind down for the night while it’s also trying to digest food, so you definitely don’t want to have a heavy meal within two to three hours of bedtime. You’ll be better off getting most of your calories at breakfast and lunch and making dinner a bit lighter and easier to digest. There’s a similar issue with liquids: Too much water before bed can make you need to get up to urinate. Instead, get hydrated earlier in the day and then taper off as bedtime approaches.
4. Cut off caffeine - earlier than you may think.
Most people can safely have a morning coffee or two without any ill effects on their sleep. But you should be aware that, depending on your age and genetics, your body can take up to 12 hours to metabolize caffeine. That means if you’re planning to go to bed at 10 p.m., you could be affected by a cup of coffee you had at 10 a.m.
5. Get some vigorous morning exercise.
Exercise raises the core temperature and levels of the hormone cortisol levels, both of which signal the body that it’s daytime. And studies have verified that exercise both helps people fall asleep and improves their quality of sleep. But because of its hormonal effects, make sure you don’t do your exercise too close to bedtime—and definitely not within three hours of turning in for the night.