Drained. Fried. Spent. Worn out.
No matter how you say it, that 2 p.m. cup of coffee can only do so much to keep you awake and alert until the end of the day. The energy you need can be found in the evening hours – behind your eyelids – but waiting until lights out to think about your rest might be too late.
Amber Hoffman, a registered polysomnographic technologist (sleep specialist) at the Roper St. Francis Sleep / Wake Disorder Center offers the following tips to help you get the most out of your sleep.
Don’t sleep in to catch up on sleep.
Hoffman says we should kick the habit of trying to repay our sleep debt by sleeping in extra on days off. Waking up at random times of day throughout the week does not let your body set its natural internal clock. This can cause grogginess throughout the day and restlessness throughout the night. You have to find your rhythm. Going to sleep at the same time every night will allow your body to recognize when to feel sleepy and when to get moving.
Build up your sleep drive throughout the day.
Making dinner, going to work or picking up your kids after school are all ways of naturally tiring yourself out before bedtime. But if that isn’t doing it for you, you might have to wear yourself out like parents do their children. Expend that extra energy by adding a workout to your daily routine. It doesn’t have to be Olympic weightlifting; even a brisk walk or body-weight exercises like push-ups and sit-ups can help.
Practice good sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene refers to habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well. Eating a healthy dinner, washing your face, brushing your teeth and limiting your screen time an hour before bed are all ways to practice sleep hygiene and get your brain ready to catch some ZZZ’s. When you make a routine out of going to bed, your body senses these ques and starts to prepare you for bed as well.
Quiet your restless mind with guided sleep.
Do you find yourself recounting the day, thinking about your workload or that embarrassing moment you had with your boss? If your brain just won’t stop, guided sleep meditation might help relax your mind and body. You don’t have to be a guru to learn to “get out of your head.” A quick search in the app store of choice will deliver several options (free and paid) that offer helpful sleep sounds, stories and breathing exercises. “Falling asleep while watching TV isn’t an option for guided meditation. The light from the TV interferers with your melatonin production and interrupts your sleep,” says Hoffman.
Stop late-night snacking.
Remember that crazy dream about the Siberian tiger that chased you down the water-filled hallways of your elementary school? Late-night trips to the pantry can contribute to vivid dreams and night sweats, which can cause you to wake up more frequently or never truly get into a deep sleep.
If you try these tips and find they aren’t helping you get to sleep and stay asleep, you might want to consider a sleep study. The Roper St. Francis Sleep / Wake Disorder Center offers at-home tests that are easy to use, mailed directly to you and only need to be worn for one night. The results of the study will be automatically sent to our sleep labs through a mobile app. Ask your doctor if an at-home sleep study could be a good option for you. If you don’t have a doctor and need a referral, call (843) 402-CARE or visit rsfh.com/findadoc.
Written by Catherine Flanders