Signs That You Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep
Summers and Winters in Alaska can both be hard on getting enough sleep. The extreme lighting conditions don’t provide the transition from light to dark and dark to light in the morning/evening that prompts us to get tired and wake up. Because of this, setting a good sleep routine can be extremely hard.
Some signs your sleep schedule (or lack of it) isn’t working are:
- Never feeling like you get enough sleep – can’t fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up too early
- General performance loss in many important areas of life (work, relationships, etc.)
- Chronic daytime fatigue
- Being unable to stay awake during the day
- Sudden onset of sleep-readiness at an odd hour during the day
- Uncharacteristic memory trouble
- Concentration problems
- Chronic brain fog
- Chronic headaches in the morning
- Increased anxiety that is not normal
- Uncharacteristic mood troubles
If these symptoms hit or worsen during our winters and summers in Alaska, it may be related to a sleep disorder, such as insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders.
1 – Establish Strong Pre-Bedtime Routines (No Screens!)
Pre-bedtime routines are another way to trick your body into producing melatonin. Essentially, you are conditioning your body for sleep by using routines. Some routines can include:
- Do same thing before bed every night – read a book, listen to a podcast, etc.
- Cut out blue light (TV, computers, smart phones) before bed
- Using the same incense or essential oil before bed
- Do a specific calming activity, such as meditation, washing, etc.
Believe it or not, websites discussing setting routines for sleep training children are excellent resources. Their rips work for adults too!
2 – Use Best Drinking and Eating Habits for Sleep
Coffee and alcohol are enemies of sleep. So you shouldn’t be surprised to see these:
- No alcohol right before bed
- Limit total caffeine intake
- Limit caffeine intake after noon
- Limit liquids directly before bed
- Eat a healthy diet (it’s not clear if this actually helps sleep, but it certainly doesn’t hurt!)
Alcohol suppresses REM sleep. Too much coffee or coffee to late in the day keeps many people up. Too much liquid directly before bed may wake you up in the middle of the night.
3 – Take a Hot Bath Before Bed
Our body naturally prepares for sleep not just in response to light, but also in response to changes in temperature.
When there is a temperature drop, it clues our biological clock that night is coming and that we should start releasing melatonin. Or course, unless you are camping or living without heat, our modern lives lack this temperature change.
You can simulate this change by taking a bath before bed. When you get out of a hot bath, your core body temperature drops (it heated up because you were in a hot bath), thus simulating what happens to temperatures at night. This drop in core temperature helps trick your body into thinking it’s time for bed.
4 –Get Exercise
There’s no doubt, the correlation between sleep and exercise is undeniable. Most of our jobs involve sitting most of the day. On top of that, there are chores to be done, food to be cooked, children to take care of, relationship to be had – you get the point.
Making time to exercise is hard. Here are some tips:
- Have small exercise routines you can do throughout the day ever couple of hours (pushups, situps, etc.)
- Take a long walk/run during lunch
- Commit to working out before work
Workouts don’t have to be long. Doing it at night can be counterproductive for sleep.
5 – Set Up Good Sleep Environment
Setting up a good sleep environment is extremely important, in fact critical, to your sleep schedule. It’s quite simple, you need:
- A comfortable bed – if you can’t afford a nice mattress, for $100 you can get a thick memory foam topper
- A quiet room – use earplugs if you need
- A dark room – use blackout curtains
- A clean room – no odd smells, dirty sheets, etc.
- A comfortable pillow – for a small sum of money you can get a pillow that feels perfect
Summary of Tips for Setting Sleep Routine
Here is a summary of best practices for setting a sleep routine:
- Have blackout curtains in your room
- Try and use your bedroom for only sleeping as much as possible (don’t work out, do work, etc.)
- Keep your room cooler at night
- Use essential oils, candles, and/or plants to make your room smell comforting/fresh
- Invest in a comfortable pillow for your head and legs
- Invest in a comfortable mattress (they are often on sale and they last a long time, after all)
- Use white noise machines (i.e. a fan) or ear plugs if needed
- Using light therapy during winter
- Maintaining pre-sleep ritual every night, such as reading, meditating, etc.
- Having consistent exercise
- No blue light in the hour before bed
- No alcohol in the hour before bed
- No food in the hour before bed
- Having a bedtime that you commit to as often as possible
- Taking hot baths before bed, as when you get out of the bath, it simulate a core temperature drop (i.e. night time is coming!) that is a cue for sleep
What to Do When These Sleep Practices Don’t Work
Sleep best practices and tricks won’t work for everyone. Some situations require more than self-conditions or preparing. If you have tried everything, you might consider:
- Consulting with your healthcare practitioner
- Getting a sleep study
- Consulting with a sleep specialist