Feel Like the Walking Dead? Get Better Sleep with These 7 Tips
Written by tyemedical on April 21, 2020
Have you ever awoken in the morning feeling like you’re a member of the zombie apocalypse? Staring at the ceiling for what seems like an eternity is no fun at all, and what about those nights you’re wide awake at 2 a.m.? You probably wonder if it’s possible to get better sleep and feel like a living human again. Truthfully, there’s no guaranteed cure for insomnia, and it’s not a one-size-fits all situation. On the other hand, it’s very possible that if you combine a few of these recommendations you could see a notable improvement in the amount of restful seep you get each night.
1. Commit to Daily Exercise
It might seem counterintuitive that increased physical activity helps you sleep better at night, but according to science, it’s one of the best treatments for lacking sleep or low-quality sleep. In fact, studies show it provides more benefits than most prescription medications in people with severe insomnia. Not only can daily exercise help you fall asleep more quickly, it can also help you sleep more throughout the night while reducing nighttime anxiety.
It’s best to schedule workout time well before your bedtime. (No more late-night workouts at the gym, please.) Exercise increases wakefulness, and you don’t want to interfere with your unwinding time after dark. Understanding how to sleep better means understanding the importance of moderate physical activity every day.
2. Limit Naps
Time might not be on your side, but it’s still a big part of your life. Your body has an internal clock that regulates your asleep and awake time, but unhelpful sleep habits can disrupt it. Naps that last for longer than 30 minutes can throw off your body’s clock and make sleep more difficult. But don’t worry – we’re not down on naps. In fact, a short power nap can enhance your daytime brain function and shouldn’t interfere with sleep if it you do it before 3 p.m.
3. Say No to Evening Caffeine
You’re probably tired of all the negative publicity caffeine is getting these days. We don’t mean to pile on, but for the sake of better sleep, you’ll need put the breaks on evening coffee drinking. What’s possibly your favorite stimulant, namely, caffeine, can stay in your blood at elevated levels for 6-8 hours. This means you’ll need to switch off that coffee pot or power down the Keurig by 3 or 4 in the afternoon to harness more sleeping power.
Caffeine stimulates your nervous system, inhibiting relaxation and your body’s natural winding down process during the evening. If you’re having any type of sleeping difficulty, you’ll want to pay attention to this.
But all is not lost. If you enjoy a “cup of joe” later in the day, switch to decaffeinated coffee to indulge your craving.
4. Increase Sunlight, Decrease Blue Light
If you want to banish the zombie-like version of yourself, consider embracing the sunlight! Natural sunlight keeps your body clock running efficiently for better sleep and boosts melatonin levels. If getting outside isn’t possible, consider purchasing specialty artificial bright light bulbs for a similar effect. You’ll get a boost of daytime energy as well as increased quality and duration of sleep, especially if you suffer from insomnia. Natural sunlight, or artificial bright light, helps keep your internal body clock (circadian rhythm) on track.
While you’re outside spending time in the sun, you’re also reducing your blue light exposure. Blue light emanates from electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, televisions, and computer screens and has a more concentrated effect than most indoor lighting. It disrupts those circadian rhythms that are so important for your sleep. After all, you don’t want you brain to stay in daytime mode.
Think of it this way: if you bathe in blue light this evening, you’re basically feeding your inner zombie and vanquishing your hopes for better sleep tonight. (Side note: I’ve never seen a zombie movie in my entire life, but the metaphor is working for me right now.)
For better sleep, dim your household lights in the evening and avoid screens for 1-2 hours before bed.
Check out this article for information on how to use the blue light filter on your smartphone. It also lists some popular apps to download for this purpose.
5. Stick to a Sleep Schedule All Week
If you’re like…well, most everyone…you probably look forward to sleeping-in on the weekends, especially if you’ve been struggling to get adequate restful sleep at night. Catching some additional shuteye on Saturday morning seems like a good plan, but it will likely intensify your sleep issues.
Your body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock, operates on a fixed schedule that aligns with sunrise and sunset. It naturally wants a consistent sleep and wake time. This consistency helps maintain the right melatonin levels in your body. (Remember that melatonin is the hormone that signals your brain it’s time for sleep.)
Instead of giving in to temptation on the weekends, stick to your weekly sleep schedule which should be 7-8 hours nightly.
6. Try Natural Supplements
If all else fails, and your poor sleep still makes you feel like the undead, talk to your doctor about supplements that might help you get better sleep. Our bodies can be very stubborn sometimes, especially if we’ve not been practicing good sleep hygiene for years or maybe even decades. Supplement can be helpful for retraining your sleep patterns and helping you relax at night. Start with one of these:
Your brain produces this natural hormone, but sometimes production diminishes or is not in sync with day and night. This is especially true during periods of stress, changing work schedules, or travel. In these cases, a supplement can kickstart your body’s own melatonin production. Consult with your doctor before trying a melatonin supplement.
Valerian root is an herb frequently used to treat insomnia and anxiety and acts as a sedative on the brain and nervous system. It’s likely safe for most people and works best for sleep at doses of 400-900 mg up to two hours before bed.
GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric acid)
Your brain produces a chemical known as GABA, which acts as a neurotransmitter that reduces neuron activity in your brain and central nervous system. It increases relaxation, reduces stress, and boosts your sleeping power. However, you can be deficient in your own GABA production, so it can be helpful to take as a sleeping aid when you’re struggling to get a good night’s rest.
You can also get GABA naturally from green and black teas, kefir, yogurt, tempeh, soy, lentils, and beans. When taken as a supplement, it can interact with many different medications. It’s important to consult with your doctor before you begin taking GABA, especially if you take prescription medications.
Some people report that it can take up to a week before the they feel the sedative effects of GABA for sleep. It’s important to take it about the same time each night.
7. Pinpoint Underlying Conditions
Sleep disturbance and insomnia happen to everyone occasionally, but for some people, it becomes a real problem, especially with age. If you suspect you have chronic insomnia or another sleep disorder, talk to your doctor. You’ll need a professional to help you determine if there are any underlying medical conditions causing your zombie-like state. Some of these underlying conditions can be very serious, like sleep apnea, narcolepsy, or even restless leg syndrome.
Can I Relax with a Couple Drinks at Night?
If you’ve considered self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs – don’t. Just a couple drinks in the evening can affect your sleep hormones in uncomfortable ways. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol increases symptoms of some sleep disorders and interferes with melatonin production. Other drugs have similar negative effects.
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