Most of us struggle to get a good night sleep. Between stress, work, the foods and drinks we put in our bodies, and the screens we look at as we lay in bed.
Matthew Walker, PhD, is a professor at UC Berkeley and an expert on our body's need for sleep, has written a book called Why We Sleep. It's a great read and addresses the way our sleep hygiene can affect our physical and mental health. “There is not one process in the human body, (that we’re aware of) that isn’t improved by sleep,” he says, and because of this the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the WHO), concluded in 2007 that night shift work is a probable human carcinogen.
Our bodies need sleep. It's been shown to affect or accelerate medical conditions like cancer, weight gain, heart disease, weakening of the immune system, and even damage to your DNA.
So you should get the 8 hours of sleep. Here are some times from Dr. Walker on how to get them.
1) Stick to a sleep schedule.
Most people have a difficult time adjusting to a constantly changing sleep schedule. So make it a priority to stick to a set schedule to get the most sleep.
2. Don’t exercise too late in the day
Exercise is good for your sleep, but you can overcharge your brain if you work out 2-3 hours before bed.
3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine
They're all stimulants and even drinking in the afternoon might affect your schedule. Plus nicotine withdrawl may wake you up before you normally would.
4. Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed
Nightcaps are a common practice, but too much alcohol may put you in a lighter sleep as your body burns off the excess.
5. Avoid large meals and beverages
late at nightYou drink too late and you'll keep getting up to pee. If you eat too late you might get digestive issues.
6. Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep
A lot of medication can keep you awake. Check with your doctor to see if any adjustments can be made.
7. Don’t nap after 3pm
Naps are nice, but a nap that runs too long or too late can disrupt your sleep cycle.
8. Make sure to leave time to relax before bed
It's hard to go to sleep if you're active and busy. Take some time to unwind and read or relax.
9. Take a hot bath before bed
The drop in body temperature after a bath will likely help you to feel sleepy, and the bath can help you to slow down and relax before bed.
10. Have a dark, cool (in temperature), gadget free bedroom
Bright lights will keep you awake, you want your bedroom to be around 67 degrees, and the blue light from your screens will keep you awake.
11. Get the right sunlight exposure
Sun exposure during the day helps our body to regulate sleeping patterns. Try to get at least 30 minutes of sunlight exposure.
12. Don’t stay in bed if you (really) can’t sleep
If you're anxious about sleep and you're laying around stressed out, get up and do something else.