Habits that Promote Sleep
Quality sleep can be quite elusive to some, especially during this stressful season of COVID. Many of us have less consistent sleep schedules and there may be less structure to our days overall.
I totally feel that. I used to be religious about going to bed by 10pm, getting my solid 8 hours of shut-eye, and then waking up refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
Ya, all that ended in mid-March.
It’s now become standard practice for me to stay up past 1am, sleep-in the next morning, get up for a bit, and then even go back to bed sometimes for another hour or two! Needless to say, I was exhausted most of the time and it simply got worse as the weeks and months progressed.
In an effort to claim back my schedule and energy, I’ve started trying to get to bed a little bit earlier each night. There are also two major things you can do right away to dramatically see improvements in your sleep quality:
The research evidence is pretty clear on this one: exercising during the day can improve sleep quality. This applies to low-intensity physical activity, like yoga, as well as higher-intensity workouts like aerobic or resistance training. It is better to avoid scheduling your workout right before bed though, because doing so can increase your core body temperature and increase adrenaline (both of which can compromise sleep quality). However, this probably isn’t too big of a deal, especially if you aren’t going literally straight from the workout right into bed.
The bigger concern here is that your body tends to associate physical activity and movement with daytime, so exercising later in the evening or night may throw off your body’s internal clock and make it harder to fall asleep or get quality sleep. Still, if your schedule is such that nighttime is the only time you can squeeze in a workout, test it out and see whether or not it negatively affects your sleep!
(This is where I’ve been struggling).
Our bodies function according to what’s called a “circadian rhythm”. It’s essentially a biological clock that works according to a 24-hour schedule, using things like light and temperature as clues for timing. Of course, back in the day (before the days of the perfected indoors), warm + bright meant daytime and cool + dark meant nighttime. Now, for the most, we have access to warmth and light 24 hours a day if we wanted! This can be very confusing for our bodies as it doesn’t necessarily get the natural cues to release melatonin and wind down at night.
This is why consistent schedules are so key. Waking up and going to bed at the same time every day can not only help you fall asleep faster, but can also improve the quality of your sleep. A consistent nighttime routine (like reading or brushing your teeth) can also cue your body to start winding down. Of course, we want to make sure this routine is not too stimulating, as that will be counterproductive. Limiting screen and blue-light exposure is also key during this time!
Stay nourished my friends,