November 6th marks the end of Daylight Savings Time, where we "fall back" an hour. And if you're like most people, you get a little bit of satisfaction out of knowing that you can catch a few extra z's on Sunday morning.
While we all need sleep, hardly any of us get enough of it. Even if you are among the fortunate few who actually get the recommended eight or more hours of sleep a night, you can still feel like you're dragging through your day for some strange reason. So what gives?
Believe it or not, the quality of your sleep is just as important as how many hours you're logging every night. Try the following tips to help you get the most out of a good night's sleep.
1. Expose yourself to daylight as much as possible during the waking hours, but then tone down your exposure to light in the evening. Since the days will be shorter and the nights longer, daylight will become a precious commodity, and that can really mess with your body's natural sleep-wake cycle. Keep in mind that your brain releases more melatonin (a hormone that makes you feel sleepy) when it gets dark at night, and less melatonin when it's light, so that you can be alert at the right times of the day.
Since the release of melatonin is largely governed by light exposure, limit your screen time (e.g., laptops, smartphones, etc.) the closer you get to bedtime. Staring at those brightly lit screens on your smartphone or laptop right before bedtime can trick your body into thinking it's not time to go to bed yet. This will keep your body in an alert state, which can hinder your ability to transition into any kind of restful sleep.
2. Avoid eating heavy meals within two hours of bedtime. If you go to bed with a full stomach, you might be ready to fade off into sleep, but your body has to get busy digesting all that food you just ate. This means that your digestive system will be required to work "third shift," which will keep your body from completely entering into a restful state. This is the reason why you can eat a full meal right before bed but then still wake up ravenously hungry--your body's been working all night, and it's ready to consume some more calories to get energy for the new day!
3. Limit how much you drink right before bedtime as well, as it will more than likely cause you to make a trip (or two) to the bathroom in the middle of the night, disrupting your sleep. Try curtailing any consumption of liquids no later than one hour before bedtime, so that you can get everything out of your system before you lay down. Not only is it important to watch your time frames, but what you drink plays a huge role in your restfulness as well; if you drink stimulating drinks such as coffee, energy drinks, or alcohol too close to bedtime, you're going to have to wait a while for the effects of those drinks to wear off before your body can fully be at rest.
4. Exercising on a regular basis can do wonders for improving your sleep. Part of this is due to the many positive physiological effects of exercise (e.g., release of endorphins, better circulation, better digestion, etc.), but it's also because you'll simply be more tired by the time you go to bed. Making a regular habit of stopping by Five Seasons for a good workout at least three to five times a week will definitely contribute toward a more restful sleep at night.
You don't have to zombie your way through these shorter winter days. Use the tips outlined above to help you improve the quality of your sleep, so you can be more alert, well-rested, and productive during your waking hours.