It may seem obvious but it’s easy to forget – consistent good sleep is key to healthier wellbeing. Even though we’re spending more time indoors and working from home, somehow, we still manage to stay up late into the night. Perhaps it’s the constant home office ethic or the attention to social media platforms – either way, there needs to be enough separation hours between screen time and bedtime. But there are so many questions that come into play – how many hours do we need to sleep? How can we avoid pre-sleep procrastination? What are the best habits to get a good night’s sleep? Here’s a quick guide on what you need to know to get that well-deserved shut-eye.
“Humans are essentially the only mammals that willingly deprive themselves of sleep,” says Johns Hopkins sleep expert Rachel Salas, M.D in an article on sleep health. There are ways to help get that good night’s sleep and on resisting temptations from external influences that might hinder your evening. According to Sleep Foundation, 35.2% of all adults in the U.S. report sleeping on average less than seven hours per night, which is less than the recommended seven to nine hours per night (for adults 18 to 64 years old). Moreover, half of all Americans say they feel sleepy during the day between three and seven days per week.
Bedtime procrastination – beat it
More specifically known as revenge bedtime procrastination, the psychological phenomenon refers to the behavior of people staying up later than they desire to take ‘control’ over the night. This usually stems from if they feel that they’ve not had enough free time during daylight hours. There are so many factors that can override the day – work, running errands, cooking, taking the kids to school – it all adds up. Interestingly, some people actually do want to sleep, despite their actions, but it’s the intention-behavior gap that stops this. Ramiz Fargo, MD, medical director for the Loma Linda University Sleep Disorder Center, noted that the activities in revenge bedtime procrastination are typically easy things you enjoy doing. “It can be swiping through your phone, watching television, or catching up on reading.”
It’s so important to ensure that you get enough sleep every night to maintain a healthy lifestyle – especially since sleep deprivation can be linked to weaker immune systems. But thanks to the internet and an increase in sleep doctors globally, we can learn ways to cope with this undesirable behavior. Typical recommendations include switching off your phone an hour before bed, not exercising in the evening before bedtime and trying to find a consistent time to sleep every night. Additional ways to help achieve quality shut-eye include meditation before bed to clear the mind of any thoughts. Since the root of the problem links back to not having enough time in the day, it’s helpful to start organizing days more efficiently to feel like you aren’t wasting any time. Of course, we all have days when we’re more likely to scroll through feeds and stay up watching our favorite shows – and that’s also completely normal – moderation is key.
Managing blue light before bed
The high-intensity blue light from the sun is a big reason for your good morning moods – and it can keep you energized for hours to come. We get most of this blue light outdoors but there are plenty of man-made variations which are seen indoors like fluorescent and LED lighting, smartphones and flat-screen televisions. Both forms – natural and artificial blue light – can increase sharpness and mental awareness, which is great for the daytime but less so when it’s time to wind down. Our eyes aren’t able to block out blue light so this exposure to all colors of light blocks out melatonin which is meant to make you sleepy. Reducing use of electronics before bed is a given, but if you want to take the extra step, there are blue light-blocking glasses you can purchase to help reduce this further. Another safe option is to dim the brightness of your screen to switch the background from white to black.
The best habits to get a good night’s sleep
To get the best quality sleep, try to maintain sleep hygiene to improve your routine.
- Keep a sleep-wake cycle and try to sleep and wake up at the same time every day/night
- Avoiding eating before bed
- Exercise regularly – at least 40 minutes per day
- Reduce your caffeine intake – this includes coffee and tea, you can even switch to decaf
- Switch off your electronics a few hours before bed
- Meditate – it’s a great way to unwind after a long day
** If you have more concerns or feel that you are suffering from insomnia or sleeping disorders, consult a doctor for further discussion.