Sleep Hacks to Improve the Important Things in Life
We hear a lot about “life hacks,” simple things that we can do to improve our lives. Research shows that the #1 life hack is better sleep. Better sleep improves your health, mood, performance at work or school, even your social life. Did you know that you look more attractive to others when you have had a good night sleep?
The Top 8 Sleep Hacks listed below are the most impactful things that you can do to improve your sleep. Some will seem obvious, some will seem difficult, but all of them have been scientifically proven to improve your sleep and health.
#1 – SET A CONSISTENT SLEEP SCHEDULE
WHY – Erratic bedtimes and wake up time, including sleeping in on weekends disrupts your sleep clock. This means that if you sleep in an extra 3 hours on weekends, you will jet lag on Monday morning and will feel like you are recovering from a trip from California to the east coast!
HOW – Go to bed and wake up at about the same every day – even weekends!
#2 – REDUCE OR ELIMINATE NAPPING
WHY – Taking a nap will significantly reduce your “sleep appetite” when you want to go to sleep. It is like eating a giant snack a few hours before dinner.
HOW – Choose other ways to combat daytime sleepiness. Take a brisk walk, exercise, do a fun activity. Plan your day to make enough time for the things that get in the way of going to sleep at a reasonable time. This is more likely to improve your daytime sleepiness.
#3 – USE LIGHT AND DARKNESS TO CUE YOUR BODY TO WAKE UP AND SLEEP
WHY – Light is an extremely powerful cue to your brain and body that you are supposed to be awake or asleep. Light will send a cascade of messages to your brain to help you to move to a wakeful and alert state. Darkness cues your body to release melatonin, the hormone that induces sleepiness.
HOW – Expose yourself to bright light in the morning and eliminate light from your bedroom at bedtime. In the morning: get those lights on and shades open. Even the light from your devises can help to stimulate wakefulness! At night: Reduce light sources in your bedroom. Get black-out shades, get screens out or the bedroom, and turn off all lights.
#4 — REMOVE ALL SCREENS AND TECHNOLOGY FROM THE BED AND BEDROOM AT LEAST ONE HOUR BEFORE YOU WANT TO FALL ASLEEP
WHY– Light is a very powerful cue to your body that it is time to be awake, not asleep! Just like natural light, the light from laptop and phone screens cue the body to suppress the sleep hormone melatonin, which naturally induces sleepiness.
HOW – Set and keep a technology “curfew.” Put your technology to sleep an hour before you want to be asleep.
#5 – USE ACTIVITY TO REDUCE DAYTIME SLEEPINESS
WHY – Research shows that a brisk walk around the block or running up the stairs a few times is a better way to increase your energy level than napping or zoning out.
HOW – Feel tired? Get moving! When you are tired at school, don’t put your head down on the desk and miss important school work, take a quick walk or run up and down the stairs. Try it any time of the day to generate energy and reduce sleepiness.
#6 – REDUCE CAFEINNE INTAKE AND DON’T CONSUME CAFEINNE AFTER 3PM
WHY – Caffeine influences how long it takes to fall asleep, how well you sleep, and how long you sleep. It is a really good idea to reduce your caffeine intake, and to avoid caffeine consumption at least six hours before bedtime. It takes about 6 hours for half of the caffeine consumed to be eliminated from the body.
HOW – Skip the energy drink or latte after school, eat a healthy snack or get some exercise to generate energy and clear your mind.
#7 — BREAK UP WITH THE SNOOZE BUTTON
WHY – – Snoozing is not sleeping! Once you hit the snooze button, you are no longer sleeping. The sleep you get after you hit the snooze button does not give you the healthful benefits that come from real sleep.
HOW – Pay attention to when and how often you hit the snooze button. Do an experiment, and set your alarm for a later time and commit to skipping the snooze button ritual. This may seem hard, but it could buy you some extra minutes of restorative sleep!
#8 — DON’T ASSUME THAT FEELING GROGGY WHEN YOU WAKE UP MEANS THAT YOU HAD A BAD NIGHT SLEEP
WHY – That grogginess we feel when we are waking up in the morning is called “sleep inertia.” We sometimes make the mistake of thinking of sleep as an “on/off” switch, rather than a simmer switch. Our bodies and brains need time to gradually move from asleep to awake.
HOW – Things that can really help us to make this transition are light, activity, music, and breakfast. So, open those shades, turn on the lights, get moving and put on some up-beat music to beat that groggy feeling!
Many of these sleep hacks ask you to do something differently from your normal routine. Others suggest that you think about things differently than you have in the past. Take the sleep hack challenge and choose one of the sleep hacks that you would be willing to try. Make a commitment to try to make the change for just 1 week. Keep a daily log (click through to form Take the Sleep Hack Challenge) of track of how well you were able to stick to this new routine. Reward yourself if meet your goal of trying something different for just one week.