Are you a night owl with early bird work responsibilities finding it hard to get yourself early to bed? Aside from cutting down on your caffeine intake, winding down from your wound-up day takes planning ahead along with a few mental and physical tricks. First, it’s time to turn off that computer and television well before bedtime, ladies. “One of the most simple but important reasons technology affects our sleep is cognitive stimulation,” said Mark Rosekind, PhD, former director of the Fatigue Countermeasures Program at the NASA Ames Research Center in a WebMD interview. Revving up your brain with electrical activity is the last thing you should be doing before bed. “The physical act of responding to a video game or even an email makes your body tense,” explained Rosekind. As you get wound up, your body begins a “fight or flight” response, releasing stress hormones which are not conducive to sleep.
Lifehacker says that taking a warm shower before bed also helps you fall asleep faster because it adjusts your body temperature for perfect sleeping conditions. How? Well, a warm shower causes you to feel groggy and when you walk out of your steamy bathroom into your cooler bedroom, your body temperature will drop, signaling to your body that it’s time to rest. Then the body slows down your heart rate, breathing, and digestion, etc.
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Another trick for getting early to bed is exercising in the morning or early afternoon for better sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reported that “exercise in the afternoon can help deepen shut-eye and cut the time it takes for you to fall into dreamland.” They also warned that vigorous exercise close to bedtime can have the opposite effect; it can ignite your senses even more. Studies suggest that morning fitness regimes result in healthier night time sleeping patterns. So aim to get your workout done early in your day.
Surprisingly enough, being tense before bedtime can actually help you sleep better. Not tense in the nerves sense, but tensing yourself up until your muscles hurt can cause you to feel sleepy. Start by systematically tensing each muscle group until it starts to hurt…and then let release it. This creates a feeling of relaxation and decreases tension. If you are physically relaxed you will be mentally relaxed. If this muscle strategy doesn’t work, try a cognitive technique for a good night’s sleep: repeating the word “the” at irregular intervals. For instance if your mind is racing with thoughts that are keeping your from falling asleep, repeating a simple word like “the” blocks other thoughts from coming into your head. Whether they’re physical techniques or mind games to play with yourself, it’s time to get some proper sleep. Sweet dreams.