Have you ever heard of “social jet lag”? It’s not what happens when you fly to Japan with Mark Zuckerberg. Social jet lag describes the ill effects that occur when you get up at 6 a.m. and go to bed at 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, but party until the wee hours, then snooze ‘til noon, on the weekend.
This is why you’re miserable during Monday morning meetings, but it can have more serious effects as well. One study found that people who have a vastly different weekend sleep-wake schedule are three times more likely to be overweight! Do your best to turn in and awaken around the same time, regardless of what day it is.
Here are some other strategies for making sure your sleep is truly restful.
Resist the Pull of the Sofa
Another no-no? Napping. Although curling up for a Sunday-afternoon snooze with your cat or your spouse may be one of life’s greatest pleasures, it will wreak havoc with your sleep schedules, say experts.
If you’re really dragging and don’t think you can make it to bedtime, try a coffee nap. Drink a cuppa, then immediately lie down — but set your alarm so that you sleep for no longer than 20 minutes. That’s just about the length of time it takes caffeine to kick in, so when you wake up from a coffee nap, you will be refreshed and ready to go, without the grogginess and discombobulation caused by a longer rest.
Schedule Your Sweat
Regular exercise is beneficial in all sorts of ways, from stress relief to improved sleep quality. However, it’s important to work out at the right time each day. That’s because the endorphins released by getting your sweat on can actually interfere with your ability to drift off. Plan your trip to the gym or your weekly racquetball date for at least one, preferably two or more, hours before you plan to turn in. The exception to this rule is any type of exercise that doesn’t get your heart pumping — restorative yoga or tai chi, or simple gentle stretching.
Let Some Sunshine In
You’re probably aware that using an electronic device before bed is a big mistake, since the blue light emitted by your laptop or smartphone can interfere with your circadian rhythm. But did you know that getting more bright light during the daytime is beneficial?
Studies show that exposing yourself to bright sunlight during the day helps you sleep longer and better come nighttime. If that’s not feasible, invest in a light-therapy device that mimics the effects of Mr. Sun.
Set the Stage for Sleep
For optimal sleep, make your bedroom a soothing, appealing environment — but not so enjoyable you’re tempted to hang out there all evening. Using your bed only for sleep (and sex) will help your body associate lying down in it with drowsiness.
Pay particular attention to noise, light levels, and temperature. You may need to invest in blackout curtains, a cooling mattress, and some high-quality cotton sheets. Try an app or website that generates your preferred white noise, whether that’s the sound of rain, waves, a fan, a cat’s purr, or a roaring river.
Stop Raiding the Fridge
Plenty of people enjoy a late-night snack, whether it’s a bowl of buttery popcorn while watching TV or a cheese-and-cracker platter you nibble on while reading the latest bestseller. Just try to finish noshing well in advance of turning out the lights, scientists advise. A big meal or hearty snack can cause stomach upset that will keep you awake, but it’s even more likely to disrupt the release of sleep-inducing hormones like melatonin.
Skip the ginormous Dagwood sandwich and have something high in protein but low in carbs. A few slices of turkey with some cheese is a good bedtime snack, as is a handful of heart-healthy nuts.
Ready, Set, Get Those Zzzz!
Sleep hygiene is an important factor not just in feeling alert and functioning normally each morning. It can contribute to your overall health and well-being in some surprising ways. Getting an ample amount of high-quality slumber is therefore one of the most important habits you can cultivate.
Do you ever suffer from insomnia? How do you combat it? We’d love to hear about your experience, so leave a comment below!