There are a lot of things that hang on a good nights rest; your mood the next day, productivity level, diet, and the list goes on. Below are 10 hacks to get you a better night’s sleep so you can rock your week without the dreaded exhausting shadow that lingers:
Moderate Your Alcohol Intake
A nightcap might make you drowsy, but it probably won’t improve your sleep. Alcohol is an anesthetic that depresses your central nervous system, says Rafael Pelayo, MD, a clinical professor at Stanford’s sleep center. As the sedative wears off, you’re more likely to wake up in the middle of the night and then sleep fitfully. A small 2011 study found that when participants went to bed drunk (for some that is having the equivalent of three drinks in an hour), they had less REM sleep. They also woke frequently during the night, an effect that was more pronounced in women than in men. Since it takes at least an hour for your body to metabolize a standard drink, Pelayo suggests waiting one hour per drink before heading to bed. “Going to sleep sober is a healthier choice than nodding off with a buzz,” Pelayo says. “You might sleep less, but the sleep you get will be far better.”
Cognitive? Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia.
The best-kept secret in sleep medicine isn’t some wonder drug, but a pill-free treatment called cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), which targets the thoughts and behaviors that screw up your slumber (the panicky feeling of being wide awake at 3 A.M., the hours of tossing and turning). According to recent research, CBT-I can be stunningly effective—after at least three sessions, 86 percent of insomniacs showed significant improvement in their sleep. However, there’s one big challenge: About 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia, but there are only a few hundred CBT-I practitioners.
To help bridge the gap, a new app calledSleepRate delivers the therapy to your iPhone. The app works with a heart rate monitor, logging your heartbeats as you sleep, while your phone records ambient sounds, such as a snoring spouse or barking dogs. Once the app collects data for five nights of a nine-night stretch, it generates a personalized plan based on science from Stanford University. The suggestions, which can take up to eight weeks to fully implement, might surprise you. If you normally go to bed by 9, for instance, “we could recommend that you don’t get into bed until two to three hours later,” says Britney Blair, who is board certified in behavioral sleep medicine. “If you have trouble falling asleep, we want you to get in bed only when you’re good and sleepy. When patients feel their sleep improving, I often get an ‘Oh, my God!’ response because they can’t believe it’s actually working.”
Exercise. Anytime, Anywhere
For years we’ve been told that exercise improves sleep unless you work out close to bedtime, in which case it can have the opposite effect. But according to recent research, fitness can be great whenever. We asked Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University, to explain.
Q: I can really exercise any time of day? A: When insomniacs did 30 minutes of exercise as late as 7 p.m. three times per week, we found that it actually improved their sleep. A separate poll also found that working out within four hours of bedtime won’t keep most people up.
Q: So will it cure my insomnia? A: The subjects in our experiment slept 45 minutes longer and reported having higher-quality sleep. But more research needs to be done to determine how much exercise is needed to maintain those effects.
Q: When can i expect to see results? A: In about two to four months. We don’t know why it takes that long; it could be due to improvements in mood, which take time to have a lasting effect on your sleep patterns.
Imagine You Slept Better Than You Did
Telling yourself you got a good night’s rest may make a difference in how you think and feel: In a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, scientists told one group of subjects that they had logged an above-average amount of REM sleep, while a second group was told they didn’t get enough. Then everyone was given a test that measured their cognitive function. The above-average sleepers performed better than those told they’d slept poorly. “Simply hearing that you had high-quality sleep may trigger automatic responses, like heightened energy, that your brain has come to associate with being well rested,” says study coauthor Kristi Erdal, PhD.
The New Jet Lag Cure.
Tired of feeling like a zombie the first few days in a new time zone? Entrain, a recently launched app developed by mathematicians at the University of Michigan, can help speed up the recovery process. The free app focuses on light, the most important factor when it comes to resetting your circadian clock. “When people travel, they often want to immediately shift their sleep schedule to the new time zone, but for some trips, that can actually make things worse,” says Olivia Walch, one of the app’s creators. “You can adjust fastest by exposing yourself to light at times of day that aren’t always intuitive. We may, for example, recommend staying in the dark until 10 a.m., even if you wake up at 6. When curing jet lag, sleep matters, but light matters more.”
Lullabies Aren’t Just For Babies.
Before you hit the sack, cue up a soothing playlist. Research in the International Journal of Nursing Studies found that when insomniacs listened to relaxing music for 45 minutes prior to bedtime, they spent more time in REM sleep.
Myth: The Early Bird Gets The Worm.
At least, not always. When you rise before dawn to finish a last-minute task, you may be more likely to experience microsleeps—temporary moments of nodding off that can last up to 30 seconds. “Your body follows its own circadian rhythms and wants to keep sleeping,” says Michael Twery, PhD, a sleep expert at the National Institutes of Health. Try to complete your work before you turn in (even if it’s past your normal bedtime). And if possible, Twery advises, plan ahead for the lost sleep with a nap during the day.