BI Answers: What is the best way to get ready for bed?
We all know the feeling. It’s 2 a.m. and you just can’t seem to fall asleep.
How many cave men do you think had that problem?
“The brain back then used to get all these cues,” Dr. Rachel Salas, a sleep researcher at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine told Business Insider in an email. The sun would go down. It would be dark. There was no modem lights flickering up the walls of their caves.
These days, we’ve stripped our environment of all the signals that would usually prime our body for sleep and added a slew of signals that tell it to stay awake. “Honestly, a lot of patients just really have no idea of things in their environment that can have such a big negative impact on their sleep,” she said.
The good news is that there are things you can do as you get ready for bed to reinstate those sleep queues. For example, just having a “sleep uniform” (pajamas) helps, Salas said. Some people get home, change clothes, and then spend the rest of the evening doing house chores. Then they try to sleep in those clothes. “This is one way for your brain to not get a cue of when bed time is,” she said.
We asked Dr. Salas for a couple more tips on the best ways to prime your body for sleep, and lucky for us, she was generous with her answers. See her list — which we’ve lightly edited — below:
Reduce light at night
- Refrain from using alarm clocks or night lights in the bedroom — they distract you from a healthy sleep.
- Use lamps in the evening instead of overhead lighting which can mimic the sun.
- Use a dim night light in the bathroom so you don’t have to turn the light on fully if need be.
- Don’t sleep with TV or lights on — they will make your sleep lighter.
Light Exposure During the Day
- Make sure to get natural light in the mornings to jumpstart your internal clock.
- Take work breaks outside in sunlight. Some good ideas include exercising outside, or heading out for a walk with your dog during the day.
- Keep curtains and blinds open during the day to help you get attuned to the sun’s natural light cycle.
- The sounds and lights from texts, emails, and alerts can interrupt your sleep.
Keep Your Schedule Consistent
- Wake up at the same time every day so your body can get into a rhythm.
- Nap to make up for lost sleep, but don’t nap for more than 30 minutes or you might throw off your sleep cycle and wake up feeling even groggier.
- Nap earlier in the day so you can still get to bed at night. No naps should happen later than 3 p.m..
- Taking a bath or shower at bedtime can help relax you.
- Putting on pajamas can send your body a message that it is time for bed.
- Calm your mind with prayer, meditation, yoga, or stretching.
Feel Safe in Your Bedroom:
- But don’t sleep with weapons in your bedroom.
- Invest in a security system and a fire system so you can rest assured you will be woken if needed.
Keep the Bedroom Temperature Cool
- Use an air purifier in your bedroom and clean your carpets so you can breathe easy.
This post is part of a continuing series that answers all of your “why” questions related to science. Have your own question? Email [email protected] with the subject line “Q&A”; tweet your question to @BI_Science; or post to our Facebook page.
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