Sleep Health

How to Get Your Best Night's Sleep Every Night

Waking up on the wrong side of the bed is a place we’ve all been: you tossed and turned all night, get up feeling less than refreshed, and are already daydreaming about a Starbucks trip. From busy schedules to poor sleep routines, there’s a plethora of reasons why between 30 and 40 percent of American adults experience insomnia symptoms each year, which can have a negative effect on our moods, health, work, and relationships.

But we actually have the ability to control many of these factors: Michael J. Breus, PhD, board-certified sleep specialist, shares easy tweaks you can made your routine so you can hit the reset button and rise ready to tackle the day, instead of hitting the snooze button.

Stick to one wake-up time

When you wake up in the morning, you’re automatically restarting your sleep and energy cycles. Therefore, “the more consistent you are with your wake-up time, the more your body will naturally know when to wake up and go to sleep,” Breus explains. If it’s Monday or Saturday morning after a late night out, try to rise and shine at the same time to keep your body on track throughout the week.

Designate when you caffeinate

Whether it’s the taste, the routine of brewing, or the jolt of energy, a morning cup of joe or tea can be the best part of waking up. To ensure your caffeine delivers that extra “oomph” without affecting your sleep that night, wait 90 minutes after you wake up before your first cup—and resist a coffee break during that afternoon lull. “Upon rising, your body has high levels of [the hormone] cortisol, which is far more powerful than caffeine—wait just 90 minutes for your cortisol levels to go down and caffeine will be much more effective,” Breus says. “Also, caffeine has a half-life of six to eight hours. If you stop consuming it by two P.M., the effects on your ability to fall asleep at night will be minimal.”

…and when you drink alcohol

After a long day, many of us wind down with a glass of wine and sip it over dinner. Enjoy your favorite drink responsibly, but stop any alcohol consumption at least three hours before bedtime. “It takes the average human one hour to metabolize one alcoholic beverage,” Breus explains. “If you have two at a meal, give yourself three hours between your last sip and lights out to ensure you don’t affect the quality of your sleep.” Note that any more than two drinks will have serious effects on attaining deep, refreshing sleep and can cause a hangover.

Get some Vitamin D

Your alarm goes off: Instead of catching a few more zzzs or answering emails from bed, take your newspaper out on the porch and enjoy 15 minutes of sunshine within a half hour of waking up. “Sunlight resets your internal circadian rhythm [body clock], which helps clear the cobwebs of sleep and get rid of morning brain fog,” says Breus. Thus, your cycle of sleepiness and wakefulness is better regulated throughout the day (and night).

Exercise daily

Various studies suggest that daily sweat sessions promote better quality sleep in people with insomnia. Exercise prompts an increase in body temperature, and the temperature drop post-workout may promote falling asleep; additionally, exercise endorphins help decrease the arousal, anxiety, and depression symptoms linked to sleep difficulties (National Sleep Foundation). Those same endorphins can also make you feel more energized, so Breus suggests giving yourself at least a four-hour window between your jog and turning in for the night.

Know your chronotype

There’s a science behind someone saying, “I’m not a morning person.” Everyone has a biological clock, but your body might be programmed to function optimally at a different time of day that someone else’s. That’s a chronotype: a person’s genetic propensity for a particular sleep schedule. There are four chronotypes (Dolphin, Lion, Bear, Wolf) and knowing yours will help you work with your body instead of against it. Dr. Breus developed a free quiz to help you identify your chronotype, which will help you choose the right bedtime. Take it here:

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