Feb. 26 This hack is for sleepers who have trouble calming their mind, either when trying to fall asleep at bedtime or when they awake in the middle of the night, said Sleep Health Specialists’ Sarah Moe. “Right before bed, say out loud, audibly, three things that you hope to accomplish the next day, and three things that you are grateful for,” said Moe. “When you hear those things, it not only releases some worry for the next day, but also the gratitude portion releases a relaxing and calming hormone that helps initiate sleep.”
Feb. 25 Here are four mindfulness exercises that aid in sleep: focusing attention on the breath; doing a body scan, where you focus attention on different parts of the body; mindfully focusing on an everyday task such as brushing your teeth or drinking tea; a loving kindness practice, in which you send feelings of compassion to yourself and others.
Feb. 24 Meditation can make it easier to wind down and quiet your brain at bedtime. But it also can help boost sleep quality. You can practice on your own, or using a meditation app like Calm or Headspace. You can also search for sleep meditations on YouTube and choose to listen to the audio only while trying to fall asleep.
Feb. 23 Therapy lights can help those who struggle through groggy mornings, especially natural night owls who have to wake up early, said Dr. Michael Howell. He suggests spending about a half-hour in front of a 10,000-lux lamp soon after rising.
Feb. 22 A bedtime routine — doing the same calming things in the same way and at the same time — tells our brains that it’s time to sleep. Just like kids, adults respond well to the basics: bath, book, bed. Twin Cities wellness coach Amy Mattila gives her clients a few more suggestions for what she calls a “wind down,” including getting into relaxation clothes, having caffeine-free tea, and using calming essential oils like lavender.
Feb. 21 Getting moderate exercise on a regular basis can make it easier to fall asleep and get better quality rest, with more time spent in deep sleep, researchers have found. But the boost of endorphins that follow exercise can keep some people awake. If you’re one of them, avoid workouts two hours before bed.
Feb. 20 Caffeine blocks the release of a hormone called adenosine. This hormone makes us feel sleepy and normally builds in our brain all day, creating something called “sleep pressure.” Some experts suggest cutting off any caffeine around 2 p.m. if you are aiming for a 10 p.m. bedtime. M Health Fairview’s Dr. Conrad Iber often counsels people to stick to a simple rule to avoid caffeine in your brain at night: “No more than three, and none after three,” is his motto.
Feb. 19 Here’s the science behind why doctors suggest lowering your thermostat at night: Our bodies’ natural evening surge in melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the timing of when we sleep, is triggered not only by the darkening sky, but by the drop in core temperature that happens with the setting sun, explains Matthew Walker in his book “Why We Sleep: Unlocking The Power Of Sleep And Dreams.” Because our core temperature can be regulated by the surface of our skin, taking a warm bedtime bath can also help tell our bodies that it is time to sleep. A hot bath brings blood to our skin’s surface, radiating out inner heat and causing our core temperature to fall.
Feb. 18 Sleep Health Specialists’ Sarah Moe loves eye masks. “Everybody should wear an eye mask at bedtime,” she said. “It’ll take it two or three days to get used to, but once your body is used to having something on your face, it is so helpful. With time, just pulling the mask over your eyes can trigger your body that it’s time for bed, she said. The mask also can help you fall back asleep faster if you wake up during the night, because it prevents you from re-engaging with your environment and turning on your brain.
Feb. 17 Here’s the science behind why a dark room helps us sleep: When our eyes are exposed to light, it stimulates a nerve pathway to parts of the brain that control hormones, body temperature and other functions that impact how awake we feel. Darkness is key to regulating our biological clocks. It tells our body that it’s time for bed, and if we wake in the middle of the night, it signals that it’s still time for sleep.
Feb. 16 Getting moderate exercise on a regular basis can make it easier to fall asleep and get better quality rest, but the boost of endorphins that follow exercise can keep some people awake. If you’re one of them, avoid workouts two hours before bed.
30-day Sleep challenge
Over the course of four weeks, make sleep a high priority, discover your natural sleep cycles and try small adjustments that local experts say can make a big difference in how well rested we are. Each week we’ll introduce a specific challenge, set snooze goals and provide information about the science of sleep.
Join the challenge
Feb. 15 Avoid “panic math!” Sleep Health Specialists’ Sarah Moe cautions, if you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t check your phone to see what time it is. The blue light can keep you up later on. And once you check the time, it is easy to start calculating how many hours you have until your alarm goes off. “Then you’re doing math in the middle of the night, reactivating your brain, making it that much more difficult to fall asleep,” she said.
Feb. 14 Happy Valentine's Day! For couples who toss and turn, some sleep experts say sleeping in a separate bed (if not your own room) is an excellent way to get a good night’s rest.
Feb. 13 Reading is a great way to wind down in the evening. But try to stick to something calming. “Don't read about politics,” said sleep expert Dr. Conrad Iber. He has clients who report having trouble sleeping because they read political books “and then they start debating it with their spouses.”
Feb. 12 Try using the online tool sleepyti.me to calculate the best time for you to fall asleep or wake up. It’s based on our 90-minute sleep cycles and the idea that it’s harder to wake up from a deep sleep in the middle of a cycle. Try to pick a bedtime that coincides with when you are naturally sleepy (check your diary) and will give you seven or more hours of sleep.
Feb. 11 Sleeping in on the weekends is tempting, but it can throw off your sleep schedule. If you do sleep in, make sure it’s less than 2 hours past your normal wake-up time.
Feb. 10 Avoid the snooze button. If you set your alarm for 6 a.m. and plan to hit the snooze a couple of times before you get out of bed at 6:30, you may be interrupting your greatest stretch of REM sleep. Set your alarm for when you need to get up — and then get up!
Feb. 9 If you have trouble falling asleep, try gradually getting ready for bed. Put down your cell phone and pick up a book or another quiet activity. Keep the lights low and wait until you feel sleepy before you head to bed.
Feb. 8 Disorders like sleep apnea are prevalent and often underdiagnosed. People who have great sleep habits but still feel exhausted might benefit from a sleep study, said Sleep Health Specialists’ Sarah Moe. There’s a questionnaire — called STOP-BANG — that doctors use to screen for this. It’s available online if you want to check your score.
Feb. 7 Alcohol may make you feel sleepy, but it can disrupt your sleep once your body metabolizes it an hour or two later, said Minneapolis sleep expert Dr. Conrad Iber. “The rapid withdrawal of the sedative results in the alerting of the brain.”