Monday was the longest day of the year, also known as the winter solstice, and that means it was the darkest day of 2015. When the sun sets super early, it can affect our ability to fall asleep and get a good night’s rest. Since I spent most of last night tossing and turning, I couldn’t help but click when I found a Glamour article that details better sleeping habits. On average, American employees lose seven days of work per year because they had a bad night’s sleep. Poor sleep affects concentration, energy levels, mood, the ability to complete tasks, relationships, and physical health. According to Colin Espie Ph.D., a professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford, “we shouldn't treat our need for sleep as an optional extra; it’s a fundamental in life and something that we should prioritize.” So how can we easily make sleep a more important part of our lives? Here are the doctor’s recommendations.
- Check your thermostat. When your body isn’t at the right temperature, you won’t get the best sleep. The ideal temp for sleeping is around 65°F.
- Keep light to a minimum. As it starts to get dark, our brains begin to prepare our bodies for sleep by releasing melatonin. If you have a lot of bright, electronic, or fluorescent light in your bedroom, you’ll stop your body from producing the melatonin, which will make it difficult to sleep. Espie recommends investing in blackout shades.
- Lower the volume. Turn off sounds that will distract or hinder you from sleeping. “But note that in a quiet environment, noises can sound much louder if we focus on them,” says Espie. “So if your super quiet room means that you hear every creak in your floor and that keeps you awake, consider a white noise machine, which will keep the noise level constant.”
- Get some shut-eye help. Don’t be afraid to discuss your sleeping habits with your doctor. Take a melatonin vitamin supplement if you’re feeling stressed and worried that you won’t be able to sleep. Or try an app like Espie’s Sleepio or the one that changed my life, Deep Sleep.
Sleeping with an eye mask will also help you get more consistent shut eye.
What do you do when you can’t sleep?