Now that our homes have become our office, our favorite restaurant, our local hangout spot and most obviously, the place we sleep every night, it can be difficult for our minds to to adjust to this new normal. Because of this, it opens up the opportunity to establish a healthier routine that can help minimize the struggle to adjust and also get restful sleep every night.
Want to create healthy new habits that stick around well beyond the coronavirus pandemic? Though difficult, it’s not impossible. In order to avoid roadblocks and achieve our goals, we need to set up a new routine and stick to it. Dr. Shelby Harris, a clinical psychologist who specializes in behavioral sleep medicine has several tips for how to make the most of the opportunity to re-think sleeping habits that will lead to healthier routines at home.
Create a consistent wind-down and bedtime pattern.
“So many of us use some form of technology with a screen just before bed,” says Harris. “While we typically think that the nature of what we’re doing (e.g. watching the news, work emails, posting on social media) may be stimulating and keeping us awake, the main culprit is actually the blue light from most screens. Our brains naturally make melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone that comes out in our brain when the sun sets. Using devices with blue light suppresses our brain’s own melatonin production and makes it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. Make sure to turn off all screens within an hour of bedtime, and instead wind down in dim light outside of your bed with a book or relaxing hobby. Setting up a timed routine on the Alexa app to dim smart lights and create an “indoor sunset” in your den can signal that it is almost time for bed each night.”
The Rule of 3: Limit all consumption within 3 hours of bedtime.
This is as easy as it sounds, and works wonders in helping you stay healthy and productive. And it refers to both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. “Liquid intake at night often leads to more bathroom trips and sleep disruption,” says Harris. “Alcohol in particular can help some fall asleep faster, but the sleep quality ends up being much lighter and broken throughout the night. Also, while some people feel that nicotine quiets the brain, it actually serves as a stimulant and can cause trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.”
There are other factors that come into play — and that includes food as well. Harris continues, “The body is not meant to process large amounts of spicy food at night. Instead, limit big meals to at least 3 hours before going to bed, and if you find that hunger sets in as bedtime draws near, have a small snack that combines protein and a carbohydrate to get the best sleep-inducing and satiating effects (such as a small banana with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or a whole wheat cracker with a slice of low fat cheese).”
Establish a consistent wake routine.
Waking up at the same time every day is a great way to ensure high-quality sleep. Harris says, “One way to help stay on track is to set up a routine using an Amazon Echo Show 5, Amazon Smart Plug and compatible smart lighting. With the Echo Show, you can easily create a morning routine to automatically turn on your lights to a certain brightness and color every morning – and even power your coffee maker with an Amazon Smart Plug to include coffee making in your morning routine. Additionally, the Echo Show has built-in wake up lighting to allow you to declutter your nightstand and have your device gradually lighten up your room leading up to the time you want to wake up. Setting a timer to go off every morning at the same time will help your body know when the morning has come, taking away the pressure to know the time throughout the night.”
Keep your bedroom dark and cool.
“Think like a caveman! Make sure all lights are turned off at bedtime to help limit distractions and enhance natural melatonin production. Although most people like to be warm and cozy at night, a room that is too warm can lead to more awakenings and disturbed nighttime sleep. The ideal sleep temperature range is between 55 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit; with most people feeling that the upper 60s is ideal (I prefer 68 degrees!). If you have a radiator that’s difficult to control and comes on too warm, leave your window open a crack – yes, even in the winter – if it helps keep things a tad cooler.”