4 Ways To Create a Healthy Sleep Schedule
Photo Credit: Thinkstock/ Creatas Images
One of my favorite quotes of all time is by science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, from Starship Troopers. He writes, “Happiness consists in getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more.” Yet, according to a new study released from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, getting enough sleep isn’t the only key to happiness—it’s also having a regular sleep pattern. The study showed that irregular sleep-wake schedules, which are certainly common to many of us, are detrimental to happiness, healthiness and calmness. “Our results indicate the importance of sleep regularity, in addition to sleep duration, and that regular sleep is associated with improved well-being,” wrote the study’s author, Dr. Arkane Sano. So for this week’s Healthy Habits, let’s look at some ways to create a regular sleep schedule.
1. Manage the lights.
Cell phone screens, computers, and TVs emit a blue light that can keep you awake. Try to avoid those at least an hour before you turn in. Additionally, Mother Nature’s light can also be a problem in the summer, when natural light can last quite late into the evening. Use dark blinds for your windows, or an eyeshade if necessary.
2. Eat strategically.
Enjoy your last meal at least two to three hours before bedtime, suggests the National Sleep Foundation. Even eating dinner at the same time each night will help you fall asleep at the same time each night, it suggests. If you must have a snack, pick a light blend of carbs and protein, like peanut butter on crackers.
3. Let yourself unwind.
The goal is to have the last part of the day be as soothing as possible. Harvard Medical School points out that caffeine can stay in the system for four to six hours before bedtime. This includes not just the usual culprits like coffee and tea, but also sneakier ones like chocolate and some pain relievers. Other experts suggest refraining from exercise within a four-hour zone of bedtime, as that can also hop you up.
4. Stick to the wakeup time like glue. Sleep Habits.net has some very helpful techniques on picking a schedule that will work for you. Check those out here. But one of the key takeaways is: Get up at the same time, every day, even on the weekends. It feels Draconian but it will help you get to bed on time, which helps you wake up on time, which... oh, you get the picture. It’s a healthy cycle.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her latest book is Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.