Monday morning: you’re jolted awake by a screeching alarm. After pressing snooze a handful of times, you’re forced into a rushed morning routine: shower, coffee, and breakfast in hand as you rush out the door. At work, you reach for more coffee, desperately looking to offset the effects of a lack of sleep the night before. You vow that tomorrow will be different; you’ll get to bed at a reasonable hour and get out of bed when the alarm goes off. And you do, for a few weeks. But you still notice the same nagging effects, as if you’re still not getting enough sleep.
What about your quality of sleep? Lack of quality sleep has the same effects as not getting enough sleep, or sleep quantity. As a result, once we ensure we’re getting enough sleep, we need to make sure we’re getting quality sleep. Instead of offsetting the effects of morning and mid-afternoon grogginess with coffee and energy drinks, we should look to enhance quality of our sleep.
To begin to tackle optimizing our sleep, I would recommend starting with three, relatively easy fixes:
- Sleep in a completely dark environment. Research has shown that sleeping in a pitch-black room is the best. This allows for the proper function of the body’s circadian rhythm. This is the biological mechanism which regulates our sleep-wake cycle. If we’re exposed to light and the rhythm is disrupted, our quality of sleep suffers.
- The room should be a cool, but comfortable, temperature. Research has shown that room temperatures between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit create the most optimal conditions for sleeping. These cooler temps help your body produce more melatonin, decrease insomnia, and are linked to deeper, higher quality sleep overall. Be sure not to go too cold, if the thermostat is set too low, it could lead to shivering and restlessness which would negatively affect your night’s sleep.
- Limit screen time, specifically exposure to blue light, before bed. Exposure to blue light, like that from smart phones, TVs, and tablets, suppresses the production of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for helping us to relax and fall asleep. If limited, we may find it difficult to both fall and stay asleep. If you absolutely have to be on a computer or can’t set your phone down, make sure you’re limiting blue light either via glasses or through settings on your phone.
Further suggestions include waking up and going to sleep with the sun, or at least at a consistent time every day, adjusting your sleeping position, incorporating naps throughout the day, and waking up without an alarm. These three require a little more effort than the previously mentioned three, so save them for later and start by picking the lowest hanging fruit first. By adjusting a few simple habits, you’ll be snoozing like a puppy after a long hike in no time!