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Very Good Advice

Courtesy of the Irish Times

‘Why would you lie in bed waiting to get sleepy?’ Photograph: iStock

Daily habits for better sleep

Good sleep starts long before bedtime. Many of the things you do during the day will impact the quality of your slumber. So try these sleep-promoting habits.

Wake up at the same time
Our bodies follow a daily circadian rhythm, and waking up at different times throws it out of whack. It is best to keep your wake-up time consistent. Don’t sleep in, even on weekends. “When the alarm goes off, get out of bed and start your day regardless of how much you’ve slept,” Rosen said. “You may not feel great for a few days, but you’re reinforcing that when you’re in bed, you sleep.” The same goes for your bedtime: Keep it consistent. The less you deviate from your normal bed and wake-up times, the better you’ll sleep.

Get sunlight every morning
If you don’t commute to work, it can be easy to spend your entire mornings inside. But exposure to sunlight serves an important purpose: It shuts down the release of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.

“Most brain fog in the morning is caused by continued melatonin production,” said Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and author of, The Power of When. “When sunlight hits your eye, it sends a signal to your brain to tell the melatonin faucet to turn off.” Aim to get at least 15 minutes of sunlight first thing every morning.

Make your bed a haven
Working from home – sometimes from our beds – has erased a lot of the boundaries between work and sleep. But turning your mattress into an office can condition your brain to view your bed as a place that makes you stressed and alert, which can lead to insomnia. That’s why sleep experts say you have to reserve your bed for two activities only.

“The bed is for sleeping or sex,” Rosen said. “If you’re not doing either of those things, then get out of bed. If you have the luxury of going to a different room, then that’s even better. You have to break the association of being awake in bed.”

Exercise for better sleep
The pandemic led people to cut back on physical activity. But exercise is the easiest way to improve sleep, Breus said. “Sleep is recovery,” he added. “If you don’t have anything to recover from, your sleep isn’t going to be that great.”

Many studies have found that daily exercise, regardless of the type or intensity, helps people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, especially among people who are middle-aged or older. One caveat: End your exercise at least four hours before bedtime; otherwise, it could interfere with your sleep by raising your core body temperature, Breus said.

Cut off caffeine at 2pm
Caffeine has a half-life of six to eight hours and a quarter-life of about 12 hours. That means that if you drink coffee at 4pm, “you’ll still have a quarter of the caffeine floating around in your brain at 4am,” Breus said. Avoiding caffeine in the evening is a no-brainer. But, ideally, you should steer clear of caffeine after 2pm so your body has enough time to metabolize and clear most of it from your system.

Follow the two-drink rule
If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to two drinks in the evening and stop at least three hours before bed. Alternate each drink with a glass of water. Because alcohol is a sedative, some people drink a nightcap to help them fall asleep faster.

But alcohol suppresses REM sleep and causes sleep disruptions, which will worsen the overall quality of your sleep. “The closer you drink to your bedtime, the worse your sleep is going to be,” Breus said. – New York Times