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Improve Your Sleep by Doing This Every Single Day

If you struggle to fall asleep, focus on how you’re waking up.

If you toss and turn at night (68 percent of us struggle with sleep weekly, according to a study by Consumer Reports), the culprit may be your habits when you woke up … 16 hours earlier that day. Even if it sounds entirely unrelated, iIt’s not. In fact, your morning habits may be the single most important factor in how easily you fall asleep at night. That doesn’t mean you have to work harder or wake-up earlier. Instead, you can leverage the things you already do every morning to make your body’s natural cycles work for you. Try any of these five morning hacks to make both your morning—and bedtime—easier all around.

  1. Get a lot of light. One of the biggest drivers of our body’s circadian rhythm is light.  Bright light is the signal to shut off melatonin release, reset your “body clock” for the day and, generally, kick-start your body’s processes. It was easy when we went to bed and woke up with the sun on the farm, but in today’s world, we’ve lost that synchronization. Reset your circadian rhythm by getting as much light as possible as soon as you wake-up. This takes little to no effort, and is the single best way you can leverage your body’s own internal processes to awaken your system, make it easier to fall asleep earlier that night and wake-up at the same time the next day. If you’re up with the sun, stick your lovely head out the window. If you’re up earlier, grab your smartphone—that blue light will shut down your melatonin release faster than you can say “get me coffee.”(That’s why it’s a good thing in the morning, but also why you shouldn’t use your smartphone for one to two hours before bed). 
  2. Hydrate. We lose fluids during sleep by breathing and perspiration, so we wake up with a debt. Even minor dehydration worsen leave us with a foggy feeling and slower thinking processes.  Before you do anything else in the morning, chug at least eight to 16 ounces of water. Throw in some fruit, or a little lemon, or just drink it straight—whatever appeals to you most to make this an easy action item.
  3. Bust a move. Bust through the remaining bit of morning grogginess by getting your heart pumping. Not only does it raise your core body temperature, but it also releases epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine, the happy hormones—who doesn’t want more of that? If you can do a full workout, that’s great! Studies show that people who work out in the morning are more likely to stick with their routine and  sleep better that night. If you’re not there yet (and that’s ok—baby steps!), consider mini-routines of sun salutations, or a little cardio like jumping jacks, pushups, pretend jump rope and so on.  Or just play a game of tag with your 3-year old. I mean, God gave them that much energy—why not make them your cute personal morning trainer?
  4. Take a cool shower. Second to bright light, core body temperature plays a major role in our sleep and wake cycles. Taking a warm shower at night can lull you to sleep, but a cold shower stimulates you, causing release of the same hormones (norepinephrine and epinephrine) that exercise releases.  If you still want your warm shower, keep it short, and have two minutes of cooler water at the end, with 10 to 15 seconds of cold if you can tolerate it at the end.
  5. Wait to caffeinate. Wait until you’ve tried the above steps before having caffeine.  According to sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus, if you caffeinate too early, the caffeine will counteract the natural hormones (like cortisol and norepinephrine) that your body naturally releases, suppressing their effect. Wait about 90 minutes after waking, so that your caffeine can hit when those hormone levels are starting to descend.
  6. Reset your space. A cluttered bedroom, unmade bed … these things will stress you out when you go to hit the hay tonight. Rather than sleeping, you’ll want to clean up. Make your bed, put away your PJs and do other resets so that your room is calm and inviting when you return that night.

This article is third in my Sharecare series on hacks that can improve sleep hygiene, so you sleep more, sleep better and awake feeling rejuvenated.

Read the other articles here:
The Surprising Way You’re Sabotaging Your Sleep
How Light Can Actually Help You Sleep Better

Have more Qs? Want to let me know how you’re doing? Tweet me at @DrDarria or let me know at @DrDarriaLongGillespie on Facebook!

Healthy Sleeping

Healthy Sleeping

Healthy sleep isn't just about getting enough sleep; getting the right kind counts, too. While you sleep your brain stays active, and it actually takes several stages of sleep to make you feel well and refreshed. Just how much sle...ep we need changes as we age, from 16 to 18 hours a day for newborns to 7 to 8 hours a night for adults. If you find yourself feeling tired or fatigued during the day even after a full night in bed, you may have a sleep disorder. See your family doctor or a sleep specialist for help. More