Getting regular exercise and eating well are key to an overall healthy body but if you’re not also sleeping well on a regular basis, you will be fighting an uphill battle daily. Getting great sleep sounds so obvious and yet it is so hard to achieve for so many people. We’re talking about deep, uninterrupted sleep that lasts for a solid 8 hours. Now along with regular exercise and maintaining a proper diet, one of the most important steps in achieving great sleep is in creating a proper sleep environment.
Eliminate electronic devices and blue light
We’ve been hearing more and more about the detrimental effects that blue light has on circadian rhythms. Sources of blue light range from digital screens (computers and TVs), electronic devices, fluorescent and LED lighting as well as from the sun itself. In modern society, we’ve seen a huge increase in blue light over the last 10 years or so with the influx of electronic devices as well as in regards to urban lighting in the form of street lamps and decorative lighting on buildings and structures. The human body thrives on natural light and recent studies have shown that blue light emitted from LED and fluorescent lighting can have negative effects on human sleep patterns. Blue light from digital screens is also being shown to increase the risk for a wide number of health issue including depression, diabetes, some cancers as well as cardiovascular issues. What a lot of it comes down to is that it’s suspected that our circadian rhythms are out of sync because our bodies don’t know if it’s day or night anymore. This is the case for all living creatures.
LEDs have become popular mainly because they require a much lower amount of energy and provide more light and last longer. For this reason, some cities have opted for LED lighting with a lower K value when replacing outdoor lighting infrastructure. Indoors however, our phones, TVs and computer monitors are constantly bombarding us with blue light, so one of the things that you can control as an individual is to limit your time with TV and electronic devices prior to going to bed. The general consensus is to not expose yourself to electronic devices for one or two hours before you go to sleep. This will require some serious habit changing for many people since binge watching Netflix and falling asleep in front of the TV had become one of our culture’s more popular pastimes.
As well, some of the worst things you can do is stare at your phone in the dark before going to bed, waking up in the middle of the night to check Facebook or looking at your phone first thing in the morning. To clean up our immediate blue light infested environment, we started by doing the following:
- No cell phone in the bedroom – We got an analog alarm clock to wake us up in the morning. The cell phone stays in the living room and we’re reading books before going to bed instead of staring at a screen.
- Install f.lux – f.lux is software that will manage the brightness of your computer screen or cell phone so that it adapts to the time of day. This has been shown to be an excellent way to combat not only blue light, but also eye fatigue/weariness.
Lower the heat, use more blankets
A cool room promotes a much better sleep than a room with the heat cranked up, especially if you have electric baseboard heaters. Your body does not like all that dry heat and the dryer it gets (especially during the winter months), the more likely you will be prone to dry skin (eczema) and possibly nosebleeds. A few things that you can do to set the stage for better sleep is to:
- Keep your bedroom cool – Lower the heat in the bedroom and layer your blankets. This way you can remove a layer if you do get too warm during the night.
- Use a humidifier – A humidifier is a great way to combat dry air as well as dry sinuses. There are both cool and warm humidifiers so you’ll need to decide which one is right for you.
Exercise or yoga before bed
Regular exercise will help you to relax but doing very high intensity workouts too close to sleep time, and you might end up with too much adrenaline racing through your system. We really just have two simple rules about exercising before bed or in the evening:
1. If you have an hour or less, stick to some light yoga or stretching. You just don’t want to risk getting wired and some meditation and quiet time will help to clear your head. 15 minutes of light to moderate yoga should do the trick.
2. If you have a few hours at your disposal, go for a longer workout, hit the gym or do a full workout class. It’s up to you if you have the time to workout and shower.
This short 10 minute relaxation video has some great tips for exercises that will help you to relax before bed. Enjoy, and happy sleeping!