Sometime after I turned 40 a good night’s sleep became elusive. I don’t know what happened … whether it was the years of working on a virtual global team (10 p.m. conference call, anyone?), too many mornings loading up on caffeine or the curse of an overactive mind, but a solid stretch of undisturbed sleep has been hard to come by lately.
Sleep – and sleep that cycles into the REM stage – is critical for people like you and me to recuperate from demanding schedules and stress on the job. Sleep repairs the body’s cells, improves memory and cultivates creativity. And, sleep makes us all a lot more pleasant to be around!
Below are the steps my doctor and I came up with to improve my sleep hygiene. Since putting these steps in place a few months ago, I have noticed fewer middle-of-the-night disruptions and a lot more energy in the mornings. I am no longer rushing to get that first cup of coffee in me!
- Stop drinking caffeine. No more afternoon iced coffees! Oh well, it will be cold soon, perfect weather for some decaf herbal tea.
One Hour Before Going to Bed
- Lower the temperature in the bedroom. The ideal temperature for sleep is between 68-71 degrees. I installed a programmable thermostat that brings the evening temperature to 71 degrees each night at 8:45 p.m. and keeps there all night.
- Stop drinking water. Cuts back on the 2 a.m. trips to the loo.
- Put down the electronics and shut off the screens. Studies show that the blue light coming from tablets and smartphones can interfere with your body’s ability to produce melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. I have opted to put down the electronics instead of installing a filter or wearing amber goggles … for now. Giving up Netflix reruns on my iPad and browsing social media after 8 p.m. has been tough to get used to. To ease the transition, I have stocked up on books and magazines (the non-digital kind).
In the Bedroom
- Make the room completely dark by turning off ALL light emanating from clocks and other devices. My alarm clock allows me to turn off the display, but if it didn’t I was prepared to cover it with black electrical tape. I am waking up in the middle of the night less, and no longer checking the clock for the time because the display is turned off. Blackout shades are another good option for people not lucky enough to live in an International Dark Sky place.
- Pull out the boring books. I keep a boring book by my bedside to read before falling asleep. In fact, it is so boring I don’t even remember the title!
- Kick out the noisy, snoring dog. Fido (whose real name is “Bear”) was used to (noisily!) sleeping on the bedroom floor, but he has been booted to the utility room.
- Cut back on alcohol. Alcohol consumption has been shown to interfere with sleep. Restricting myself to a glass of wine or my husband’s craft beer on Friday or Saturday nights reduces middle-of-the-night tossing and turning. I remind myself of this every Monday – Thursday night.
Taking my sleep much more seriously – and much less for granted – has made a huge difference in increasing my energy level and creativity. If you find yourself waking up tired, or waking up numerous times during the night, use these tips to create a sleep hygiene plan of your own.
Heather Nelson is a partner with PeopleResults. She relies on 7-8 good hours of sleep each night. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @HeatherGNelson1. Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at #Current.