Daytime Duties to Drive You Down the Right Path
1. Stop consuming caffeine after 2:00 p.m. This includes tea, coffee and chocolate. Caffeine is a stimulant and will disrupt sleep if it is not fully out of your system before bed.
2. Exercise in the morning or afternoon. The earlier the better. Exercise helps deepen sleep, but it also releases chemicals which temporarily increase energy, alertness and motivation! Exercising in the late afternoon or before bed can disrupt your ability to fall asleep.
3. Increase light exposure during the day. Your body runs on a circadian rhythm, biological process recurring naturally on a twenty-four hour cycle even in the absence of light fluctuations. It releases different hormones throughout the day and night and needs natural light during the day and complete darkness at night to keep your waking and sleeping hormones purring like a happy kitten.
4. Remove your sunglasses in the morning and let light onto your face on your way to work.
5. Take a work break outside in the sunlight, or eat lunch outside if possible. (This is also good for the digestion of food)!
6. Exercise or take a walk outside.
7. Walk your dog while there is still sunlight.
8. Open the blinds or curtains every day and first thing in the morning.
9. Get full spectrum light bulbs for all lamps in your house.
10. Move your desk or work space closer to a window. If necessary, consider using a light therapy box which can simulate sunshine and be especially useful for short winter days.
11. If you are accustomed to taking naps, or feel you need a nap, learn to meditate instead. Meditating for 20 minutes is equivalent to 90 minutes of sleep! Now that’s a wonderful way to save time, too! If you are new to meditating, give yourself 21 days of practice before expecting miracles. After that, you will be hooked! Timing of your meditation is also important. Try to leave at least 4 hours between meditating and bedtime.
If you feel you must nap, make sure you limit naps to preferably 90 minutes at most. And use the same guideline on timing your naps as you would be timing meditation. Leave at least 4 hours between your nap and bedtime.
12. Don’t drink any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed. This will reduce the likelihood or minimize the frequency of going to the bathroom during the night.
1-2 Hours Before Bed:
13. Avoid nicotine before bed. While you should quit smoking all together, having tobacco before bed will make falling asleep difficult since nicotine is a stimulant. Additionally, all smokers should be aware that as you sleep, your body eliminates the last nicotine you consumed, and as the levels reduce, your brain will wake you up to “get more nicotine.” This is what happens naturally with any addiction.
Your body is aware of the levels of nicotine at all times. This is why many smokers wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty falling asleep. Often a smoker will say, “I always wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. So I finally just get up and smoke a cigarette and then eventually I can go back to sleep.”
14. Avoid alcohol before bed. While alcohol may make you feel sleepy and actually help you fall asleep initially, this effect is short-lived and turns on you with early morning awakening and sleep restlessness. As your liver detoxifies the alcohol from your bloodstream, and your brain registers the alcohol level in the bloodstream dropping, the awakening response is stimulated.
15. Have a small snack that contains a hefty dose of tryptophan before you go to bed. Foods high in tryptophan help your body relax and fall asleep because tryptophan is the amino acid that converts to serotonin and melatonin. My favorite food choice before bed is 3-4 ounces of turkey meat which provides about 400mg of tryptophan. Turkey meat is a great night time snack option because, not only does it contain NO carbohydrates, it is also very LOW in fat.
16. Establish a bedtime ritual. The brain will recognize this ritual and in about 3 weeks of sticking to it, and will begin to release serotonin and melatonin on cue! Classic ideas for bedtime rituals may include a warm bath, listening to relaxing music, journaling or reading something spiritual and uplifting. Don’t make the mistake of reading a mystery or suspense novel, as this can have the opposite effect and stimulate your brain.
17. Turn off the TV. Every sleep expert is going to tell you that watching TV, although seemingly relaxing, actually stimulates the mind and can make falling asleep difficult and certainly delayed. The light of the TV will also challenge your brain from producing its normal melatonin from the tryptophan in your evening snack, or from 5-HTP supplements. In fact, sleep experts recommend not having a television in the bedroom if possible. And if you feel there is possible evidence that TVs emit electromagnetic waves that can alter body functions, you have another reason to remove the TV from your bedroom.
18. Make sure you go to the bathroom right before bed. This will help reduce the likelihood that you will need to go during the evening. Even if you get all snuggled up in bed and then remember that you forgot to use the restroom one last time before bed, make yourself get up and go!
19. Wear non-binding socks to bed if your feet get cold. Feet often feel cold before the rest of the body because they have the farthest circulation from the heart. When your feet get cold, you can also end up with feet or leg cramps, which will wake you from the deepest sleep and potentially keep you up the rest of the night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends warming up your feet and hands before you actually get in bed, because there appears to be a connection between warm extremities and the brain’s acknowledgement that it’s time to go to bed!
20. If you tend to worry about all the things you still need to do, or experience “brain chatter” where your brain continues to think when it is time to sleep, journaling is a good activity for you to choose as your evening ritual. If you have a lot going on in your life, and you are already thinking about the needs of tomorrow, it will be hard for your brain to “let go”. If this happens to you, write a list of things you have to do the next day before going to bed. Once they are on paper, tell yourself you don’t need to think about them again until tomorrow, and this way you can put them out of your mind for the rest of the night. You can even put the list by your bedside so that you can feel confident that you can get started on your list right away in the morning. This is a very helpful trick for me even today with no sleep issues at all. It actually makes me feel powerful and ready to jump out of bed with a plan in hand!
21. Kick the animals out of the bed if they have any potential for waking you or rubbing up next to you! This one may be very difficult, but YOU have to be the boss. Once you have your sleep routine mastered, you will be able to re-introduce your pet into your bed and she / he will no longer disturb your sleep, and you will snooze right through their grunts, movements and bed-shaking!
22. Speaking of kicking the pets out… your partner might be a problem if they want to snuggle or move too close when you are trying to sleep. No offense… but they need to stay on their side of the bed when YOU need to sleep. And you need to tell them the truth. A little comment like “Just think honey, when I get better sleep my libido will improve” will go a long way! And while you are at it ...if there are other habits your partner has that may be disturbing your sleep, take a kind and serious approach to discussing them with him and telling your partner what you need.
23. Try to be in bed before 10:45 p.m. There is a slight increase in cortisol production by the adrenal glands between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. This is what many people call “getting a “second wind.” (This can vary by about an hour so you will need to watch closely what time YOU seem to get that “second wind”.
Most of the time we talk about “averages” of cortisol production by the Adrenal glands. But the truth is, there are “spurts of cortisol” production going on all day long. These “little” spurts may be less pronounced at specific times of the day, but they do still affect you. If you are still awake around 11:00 p.m., this little “spurt” may just keep you going until 2:00 a.m. when the cortisol levels are again at their lowest.
24. Try to sleep at least 7 hours per night minimum, preferably 8 on most nights.
25. Stick to a fixed bedtime schedule. The body wants to have, and gets accustomed to, falling asleep and awakening at certain times, and can become confused if your schedule alters frequently. A non scheduled bedtime can result in having trouble falling asleep.
26. Allow your body to wake you up if possible. Use your alarm for backup purposes only. This means that if you are going to bed at 10:30 p.m., 7 - 8 hours of sleep would result in waking around 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 a.m. If you want to wake up earlier, go to bed earlier than 10:30 p.m. For example, I like to wake at 5:00 a.m. and therefore try to be in bed by 9:30 p.m. On weekends I may adjust these hours, however, I commit to 7 hours of sleep on weekdays and 8 hours on weekends.
27. Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. The pineal gland produces melatonin and serotonin in darkness, but can be affected by the smallest amount of light, including light from your clock or TV / DVD player. Put something in front of these lights if they are to stay in your bedroom, and use blackout shades or drapes if necessary. Remove nightlights and wear an eye mask if unable to remove all lights.
28. Refrain from turning on any light at all during the night, even if you get up to go to the bathroom.
29. Block out noise. Establish this requirement with the rest of the family to assure a quiet house after you go to bed.
30. Keep the bedroom cool and well ventilated. Studies show that cool rooms are much more conducive to sleep than hot rooms, and proper air movement can prevent the room from feeling stuffy, which can make sleep restless.
31. Use comfortable bedding. Non-irritating, soft, breathable materials should be used.
32. If you awaken during the night, and it takes longer than thirty minutes to fall back asleep, get up and go to another room and read a recreational, non-interactive book or magazine until drowsy. Do not watch T.V. or engage your brain in thinking. Tossing and turning leads to frustration, which makes falling asleep even more difficult.
When you open your eyes first thing in the morning, there’s nothing better than realizing that you just woke from an amazingly refreshing night’s sleep and feel happy, thankful, and ready to start Your day!
Unfortunately this isn’t a common experience for many women when they enter their midlife years!
And what most women don’t realize is that the CAUSE of this sleeping disturbance is usually HORMONAL!
As Progesterone declines, the FIRST thing most women notice is a decline in the quality of their sleep. It usually gets worse and worse until eventually You’re Praying for just one good night. That’s HEARTBREAKING! It is usually so simple to solve! Progesterone replacement is KEY!