Among the things we probably all wanted under the Christmas tree for the holidays is sleep. Here are some thoughts about how to get more of the best present we could ask for:
- Improve your diet: Researchers have found that eating a diet that is high in sugar, saturated fat and processed carbohydrates can disrupt your sleep, while eating more plants, fiber and foods rich in unsaturated fat — such as nuts, olive oil, fish and avocados — seems to have the opposite effect, helping to promote sound sleep.
- Get more sunlight: Exposure to the sun has numerous benefits that may be especially important now — including helping to elevate mood, to improve the quality of our sleep and to strengthen our immune systems. Exposure to daylight is critical for accurately setting our internal circadian clock. Walking 15-45 minutes outside even if it is cloudy exposes you to enough daylight. Even if you are doing night shifts, try to maintain your usual dinner and breakfast time and wear sunglasses when you leave the hospital so the sun does reset your clock before you go home to sleep. For those on a daytime schedule, turn off and dim your lights two hours prior to bedtime as this signals your body to produce melatonin. Switch to dimmer settings on smart phones and computers.
- Know your chronotype: Early bird move around much more (walking 20-30 minutes more) than night owls. A study in June from Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports Chronotypes and objectively measured physical activity and sedentary time at midlife – Nauha – 2020 – Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports – Wiley Online Library tracked daily movements of a large sample of early birds and night owls, suggests that knowing our chronotype might be important for our health.
- Engage in regular exercise, or just take the stairs at work!
- Establish a nightly bedtime routine
- Cut back on screen time and social media