Free Relaxation and Meditation Apps
Lack of sleep impacts our mental health, immune function, reproductive health, and memory. 8-9 hours is the typical human sleep need. Here are a few tips that may help you increase your quality and quantity of sleep.
Keep it cool – 67F is the optimal bedroom temp because it allows us to drop our core body temp by 2F--this allows us to fall asleep and stay asleep. It’s easier to fall asleep in a room that is too cool rather than too hot. Counter-intuitively a hot bath can also help because it causes heat to radiate from our core to the surface of our skin and this actually lowers internal body temp.
Keep it dark – Overhead lights in particular reduce the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off overhead lights at least an hour before bed time.
Limit phone/tablet use - Use of phones and tablet an hour before bed delays the brain’s release of melatonin by 3 hours. It also reduces the amount of melatonin produced by 50% and reduces the amount of REM sleep we get. If you want to read to fall asleep try a physical book rather than a tablet. Also, consider reducing your screen brightness earlier in the evening as well.
Be consistent – Go to bed and wake up the same time during the week and on the weekend. If you stay awake later on the weekend this is the equivalent of giving yourself jet lag Monday morning.
Reduce caffeine – Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours and a quarter-life of 12 hours. This means you will still feel ¼ of the caffeine that you drank at noon at midnight. It’s best to limit caffeine to the morning or cut it out altogether.
Cut out alcohol – Alcohol is shown to reduce the amount of REM sleep. Though a drink before bed may have a sedating effect it also fragments sleep and causes us to wake up feeling unrefreshed.
Try mediation –Our body has natural peaks and valleys in cortisol production throughout the day. Low levels of cortisol are a natural signal to the body to fall asleep. Meditating at bedtime can help reduce cortisol levels. A Stanford study shows that after an 8 week mindfulness program, on average, participants fell asleep 40 minutes faster. See the Office of Counseling Services website for free meditation resources.
Don’t nap – Naps can decrease the level of the hormone adenosine that we need to build up in order to fall asleep.
Increase physical activity – Working out during the day can improve sleep quality, however working out too late in the day can actually interfere with sleep.
Only sleep in bed - Your brain should associate your bed with sleep. Don’t study, work, or eat in bed.
Make a list – Journaling or list-making can help to get things out of your head and down on paper before trying to sleep.
Make a pre-bed ritual – Start winding down an hour before you intend to go to bed. When you establish a reliable bedtime routine your body will have an easier time knowing when it’s time to sleep. Read a book, dim the lights, stop looking at tablets or phones, have a hot bath/shower, meditate, smell some lavender oil, do some gentle stretching or yoga, try foam rolling, apply lotion, try sketching, journaling, and/or spend quality time with pets. Find a routine that is enjoyable and relaxing for you. This would be a great time to invest in some self-care. You deserve it!
Harris, D. (Johns, S.). (2020, January 8) All of your sleep questions, answered: Dr. Matthew Walker [Audio podcast].