Winter is underway and while hibernating seems the natural inclination, studies show that the season’s shorter days can greatly impact people’s ability to sleep. Here are some tips from Elite Sports Club’s Yoga/Meditation Instructor, and Massage Therapist Jim Doucette to help you get a better night’s sleep:
- Exercise at any point during the day can help you sleep better, but, between 5 and 7 p.m. is the time when exercise’s biological benefits are multiplied. For good sleep, get at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise five days a week – but never within three hours of going to bed.
- Gentle mind/body exercises are fine just before sleep. Yoga, tai chi, and similar routines are a perfect, sleep-inducing nightcap.
- If you are inactive, adding a 10 minute walk every day could improve your likelihood of a good night’s sleep. Making this small change and gradually work your way up to more intense activities like running or swimming, which could help you sleep better.
- Try a rhythmic breathing exercise before bedtime. To start, inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four (all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath).
- Try left nostril (Ida) breathing for relaxation. Take your right hand and, with your fingers outstretched, block off your right nostril by putting gentle pressure on it with your right thumb. Be sure to keep the rest of your fingers straight and pointing up towards the sky. With a long, slow, deep breath, gently inhale through your left nostril. Then, just as gently, exhale long, slowly and completely, again ,through the left nostril. Relax deeper with each exhale as you breathe out tension and stress.
- Avoid caffeine after 2 p.m. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours in your body; six hours after your last sip, half of it is still in your body. Limit yourself to 300 mg (about three cups of coffee) per day, all before 2 p.m.
- Create an environment that is conducive to sleep that is quiet, dark and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows. Pillows that are too fat or too flat cause problems. Your pillow should be just the right size to support your neck in a neutral position. For side sleepers, the nose should align with the center of the body. Stomach sleeping twists the neck and is best avoided.
- Use your bedroom only for sleep to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. It may help to remove work materials, cellphones, IPads and other computers and televisions from your bedroom.