It’s 2 am on a work night. Where are you? Tucked in bed, enjoying a restful sleep, or scrolling on your phone until you realize you accidentally fell in a rabbit hole of weird Twitter communities? More importantly: how do your choices make you feel in the morning?
Sleep is probably the most important part of our well-being, but it’s also the field of a battle between what your brain wants (Weird Twitter) and what it needs (REM Sleep, for starters). If you find yourself unable to win this battle, you’re not alone – and, fortunately, you’re not out of luck. Here’s why.
Can’t Fall Asleep
Most of us tried at least a few times to hit the hay soonish, dreaming of the miracle morning to come. I always fail miserably. I put myself to bed early, and then I lay awake in bed for hours. According to sleep psychologist Deirdre Conroy, I’m doing it all wrong. Rather than rushing for the “right time,” it’s beneficial to wind down before bedtime – even at the cost of sacrificing an hour or so. Avoid caffeine, exercise in the morning or afternoon and not after dinner, and stay away from screens at least an hour before your bedtime. It turns out that going to bed a little bit later – let’s say at midnight – is better for you if your mind and body are more prone to initiate sleep.
Can’t Stay Asleep
Maybe you actually have no problem falling asleep. But, come 2 am or so, you’re wide awake again – giving a desperate stare at the clock on your phone. What can you do to solve your sleeping problem naturally? First of all, you should avoid alcohol before bed, since it decreases the amount of time you spend in that deep REM sleep you need. Keeping a bedroom hot also fights with the process your body undergoes to ease into sleep. At bedtime, your core and brain temperatures decrease and you don’t want them to raise again. The ideal bedroom temperature for sleep is approximately 18 degrees Celsius or 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, if you’re a light sleeper, consider white noise to drown out disruptions.
Can’t Wake Up
A strict bedtime won’t help you sleep better, but, according to the experts, getting up around the same time every day actually does. Different wake-up times translate into variable amounts of light hitting your eyes, throwing off that system regulating your sleep. Light exposure lets your brain know it’s time to start its engines. This connection also implies that it’s best to avoid bright lights before bedtime (again, screens are harmful to your sleep) since they may overstimulate your brain. You should really try to get into this natural rhythm.
Problems with your sleep can also affect anyone who shares a bed with you. This is particularly true with snoring, a problem so common that as many as 30 percent of American adults regularly snore. Luckily, there are a few ways to stop snoring naturally. For example, try sleeping on your side while elevating your head up by a few inches. You can also clear sinuses with saline before bed. Consider also asking your doctor whether you may suffer from sleep apnea. About 20 percent of snorers have obstructive sleep apnea, which can be treated.
Of course, sleep just isn’t as alluring as freedom. To many people, late-night feels like a much-needed “break from life” to freely spend our time without obsessing over being productive. Blocking social media was helpful for my sleep – but it felt boring, and after a couple of weeks “personal weaknesses” intervened. That’s why we formally suggest slacking off a bit during the day. Claim back a little bit of “me time,” even for social media. That, together with the simple tips above will set you up for that lovely circadian success.