A Path to Better Sleep Habits (Part 3)
Post-bedtime strategies to further improve the quality and quantity of sleep
If you have been following this series up to this point, you've hopefully developed a solid routine around pre-bedtime and bedtime sleep hygiene habits. We're not done yet though. It may seem logical that sleep hygiene ends at the moment you fall asleep, but proper sleep habits actually continue into the next day.
This final part of my 3-part series on sleep hygiene will focus on habits to implement post-bedtime. These habits will further solidify your sleep routine and help prepare you for a proper night's sleep the following night. If you haven't read part 1 and part 2 of this series, I suggest you follow the links below before continuing.
Though pre-bedtime and bedtime are arguably the most important phases in the sleep routine, there are a few crucial tips that can help with your sleep quality that relate to waking up properly in the morning. Though your sleep for the previous night is over, it helps to start preparing first thing in the morning to prime your body for a good night's sleep later in the day.
1. Set a consistent wake up time. Waking up at the same time every day is just as important in developing a good sleep cycle as going to sleep at the same time every night. Base your wake up time on how many hours of sleep you'd like to get every night (i.e. if you go to bed at 10:00 PM and want 8 hours of sleep, your wake up time is 6:00 AM). Use a gentle alarm to wake yourself up at the same time every morning (yes, weekends and days off too). Again, you're training your body to respond to a predictable schedule which will get easier over time. Eventually, you might find that you're waking up within a few minutes of your alarm every day, proving that your body is adjusting well to its new schedule.
2. Use light to help signal your wake up time. The sun is our natural signal to wake up. If your wake up time corresponds with sunrise, you're in luck; all you have to do is keep your blinds open to let light in. If your room is very dark, or your wake up time doesn't sync up with sunrise, try using an electronic timer. Though some alarm clocks actually come with a light that simulates sunrise to help you wake up, these clocks can be expensive. A cheaper option is to buy a small electronic timer that plugs into a wall socket. You can then plug a lamp into the timer and set it for around the time you want to wake up. The lamp will turn on at the time you set, which ideally should be a few minutes before your alarm goes off. This will help prepare your body to wake up more naturally than just relying on an alarm by itself.
3. Get out of bed right away. There's something so tempting about just a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning, but the reality is that these extra minutes do you no good at all. In fact, all you're doing is making it harder and harder for your body and mind to wake up and be ready for the day. Remember, this is all about training your body to respond to cues. If you practice jumping right out of bed in the morning when your alarm goes off, pretty soon you'll find it effortless to get up feeling refreshed and energetic.
4. Stay active throughout the day. Though an occasional, "lazy day," is good here-and-there, your typical day should include enough mental and physical activity to ensure that you will be ready for a good night's sleep at the end of the day. Being awake but expending little to no energy will not help your sleep. I've found many times that people struggling with sleep issues are actually struggling with a lack of structure and focus during their day. The goal shouldn't be to be exhausted at the end of the day, but rather to feel accomplished and ready to recharge for the next day's activity.
Better quality sleep leads to a better quality of life. Hopefully, the suggestions for proper sleep hygiene in this series can help you improve both. Now, go get some sleep!