Get a Good Night's Sleep... by Doing This During the Day

Allen Blaivas, M.D. Health Pro
  • In the last blog we starting discussing nighttime measures that are compatible with a good night sleep. Many people don’t realize that their actions during the day may very well affect their nighttime sleep, so we will cover some commonsense suggestions of what we can do during the day to make our sleep more restful at night.

    Get some early morning sunlight- Forgive me for harping on this, but it is important. The sun is the best circadian rhythm setter known to man. Getting sunlight early in the day will get the clock running in tune with normal daylight hours, allowing us to feel tired at our regular bedtimes. One caveat to remember is, if you feel very tired at 7-8 PM, which is likely before your routine bedtime, then get sunlight in the afternoon (4-5 PM), as this will give you a little more energy for those hours that you are fighting sleep.
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    Watch what you eat and drink- Many of us watch what we eat, but for sleep when you eat (or drink) may be just as important. Don’t eat heavy meals right before bedtime, but also don’t starve yourself. A well placed, light carbohydrate snack before bed can quell your hunger and help you sleep well. There are many foods that cause indigestion, especially at night. When we lay down flat, we are much more prone to reflux (heartburn).

    What you drink is also important. Obviously if you drink a lot of liquids before bed you are likely to need to urinate in the middle of the night. We all may enjoy a Starbucks on occasion, but coffee and any other caffeinated beverage can disrupt sleep. What is not generally realized is that the effects of caffeine can linger for 10-12 hours, depending on the individual, so it may be best to avoid caffeine after the early afternoon. Even if you are able to fall asleep easily after having a coffee, the sleep may be lighter and more fragmented, which will make you more tired the following day. The same applies to drinking alcohol. It is sedative earlier in the night, making it easier for sleep to occur, but later on in the night sleep can be very fragmented.

    Exercise for sleep? - Exercise, besides being beneficial for most other illnesses, can help you sleep better at night. However, don’t exercise right before bedtime as this can be stimulating. The best time for exercise is probably about four hours before bedtime.

    Cool down with a warm bath- We all know warm baths can help you relax and relieve some of the day’s tensions. They also can help you sleep. The body is most prone to sleep as it cools off, so about 60-90 minutes after a bath is a good time to lie down for the night.

    Avoid naps, especially in the evening- I am always surprised when otherwise very intelligent patients come to the office and complain that they can’t sleep at night, but on further questioning I find out that they fall asleep for 1-2 hours in front of the TV, almost nightly before bedtime. This is clearly making it impossible for them to sleep later on, at their routine bedtime. If you do need a nap, keep it brief, 20-30 minutes maximum, otherwise you may be robbing your nighttime sleep.

  • No smoking please- Besides all the other bad things smoking can do to the body, nicotine is a stimulant and will make it harder to fall asleep.
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Published On: November 07, 2006