Why Having a Worry Journal Can Help You Sleep (2:55)
Most of our daily tasks don’t require much thought. Things like showering, eating, and using the bathroom are second nature by now, but what if we told you there was a more efficient way to do everyday activities you’ve forgotten about? Correct Me If I’m Wrong… is DoctorOz.com’s new series about improving even the most mundane tasks you tackle on a daily basis so you can live happier and healthier.
“Why am I always tired?” is a question I’ve asked myself frequently. I sometimes wake up tired after going to bed early. Or, even worse, I find myself yawning on weekends when I’ve slept in until noon. I wanted to do some research on what could be the culprit of my exhaustion, and it turns out there could be many things to blame. From what you wear when you sleep to the temperature you sleep in, you might be approaching sleep the totally wrong way without even realizing it.
First, it’s important to know how much sleep to get — and there’s no one size fits all solution here. According to Mayo Clinic, adults (age 18 and older) should get 7-9 hours of sleep. Even if you get the recommended amount of sleep, there are other factors that could significantly impact your quality of sleep, which in turn can affect your health and productivity during the day. If you’re always tired, here are a few wrongs you can make right immediately to get you on track to better sleep.
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Stick to a Schedule
Waking up to a loud alarm is a harsh way to start the day, but hitting snooze may be even worse. While there is no definitive research on the snooze button, experts say it’s not good to use it. Going back to sleep for only a few minutes in between snooze alarms is not restorative sleep. According to a 2019 Business Insider article, “it may serve to confuse the brain into starting the process of secreting more neurochemicals that cause sleep to occur,” which can not only make it feel impossible to get up, but can also make you feel continuously tired once you wake up.
Get into the habit of waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day. This will train your body to develop a healthy sleep cycle and ensure you’re getting a full 7-9 hours. Plus, consistency will allow you to eventually not be dependent on a loud, annoying alarm.
Don’t rely on the weekends as a time to catch up on sleep, either. This could affect your natural sleep cycle and wreak havoc on your weekday schedule. Try your best to maintain the same bedtimes and wake up times throughout the entire week. When going to bed at the same time isn’t possible (think weekend parties and other late-night events), you should still wake up at the same time. One way to remedy your inevitable exhaustion is to take a 20-minute nap and make sure to go to bed on time.
Sleeping naked, or with minimal clothing, can actually help you fall asleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, your body temperature is a “key part of what regulates the circadian rhythm that determines when your body is ready to go to sleep and when it’s ready to wake up.” Heavy or thick pajamas can make it much more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. If you wake up sweating in the middle of the night, sleeping sans-clothes might be the answer to your problems.
You should also lower the thermostat to 60-67°F. Setting a lower temperature also decreases your body temperature, which then signals to your brain that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep.
Calm Your Mind
Stress can, quite literally, keep you up at night. If you’re stressed out, your body will make more stress hormones than sleep hormones which will make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Create a relaxing bedtime routine that involves activities to help your mind wind down for the night. Try reading, listening to white noise, or drinking a cup of decaffeinated tea. If you need to, you can ease your mind by making a to-do list or checking your schedule to prepare for tomorrow. Just make sure to do this well in advance of bedtime so you still have time to relax and unwind.
Use Your Bed for Sleep Only
If you have a small space, or just love how comfortable your bed is, chances are you may use it for more than just sleep. Doing other activities in bed like eating, working, or watching television can contribute to poor sleep. Your brain will begin to view your room as a place not just for sleeping, which could make you more alert when it’s time to go to sleep. If you create a space that’s for sleep only, your body will recognize that and will allow you to get optimal sleep.
Eating before bed, or in bed especially, can contribute to poor sleeping habits. Not only are you disrupting a restful space, but putting food into your body too close to bedtime can activate your digestive system which may interrupt your sleep cycle by forcing late-night bathroom trips.
Put Your Phone Down
Whether you’re awake lying in bed or asleep, your phone should not be near you. Blue lights from phones make it harder to fall asleep because the artificial lights confuse your body’s circadian rhythm; if your body is continuously getting light, it doesn’t know when it’s time to go to sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends stopping the use of electronic devices 30 minutes before bed.
The pings of text messages, calls, or notifications also disrupt your sleep cycle. When you’re asleep, the notification noises can wake you up for short periods of time and disrupt your sleep cycle. Put your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, turn it off until morning, or place it somewhere else in the room to ensure restful sleep.
If you haven't been doing any of the above, the answer to your insomnia could lie in your own habits. Take the time to curate a healthy sleep routine and get to know your body’s needs. A lot of curating an optimal sleep experience is by trial and error, so don’t be afraid to shake up the routine you’re used to.