Crabby lately? It could have more to do with your sleep (or lack thereof) than your attitude. Even if you’re in bed eight hours a night, you might not be getting the restorative sleep you need to cope with stress, combat illness and problem solve like you should. As an overworked professional, this probably is not new to you. But, now you can do something about it.
Create a Relaxing Retreat
Make this your next home project, and give yourself permission to go all out. Stepping into a peaceful, stress-free sanctuary can trigger restful feelings that get you in the right mindset for deep sleep. Start by decluttering the room so you aren’t tempted to do anything but rest and relax. Choose a cool color palette of calming blues or greens, and stay away from loud prints on the walls or linens.
Don’t ignore your other senses, either. Sound and smells can contribute greatly to restful sleep. Consider using a sleep station on Pandora or leaving on nature noise in the background.
Limit Harsh Lighting
Light influences the timing of our internal clocks; therefore, having a bigger effect on your sleep schedule than you may have originally thought. According to sleep scientists at Harvard, exposure to light can communicate to your body that it’s still time to be up and active. Too many late nights cause your internal clock to be reset, making it hard to establish a timely sleep schedule.
Assess your sleeping environment. Are there bright fluorescent lights tacked to the ceiling, bare windows letting in street light and a TV hanging on the wall? Consider bringing in a few lamps to provide a softer light. Invest in custom window treatments to remove outside light. And finally, substitute TV time with a good book.
Cut Back on Midnight Snacks
Pay attention to your eating and drinking habits before bed. Even if ingested a few hours earlier, caffeine can have a negative effect on your quality of sleep. According to Dr. Lawrence Epstein at Harvard, caffeine’s stimulating effects can increase the amount of times you wake up in the night, which decreases the amount of deep sleep you get.
Alcohol can have a similar effect. At first it may act as a sleep aid, but it causes wakefulness and even insomnia as it is metabolized throughout the night. If you need a pick-me-up in the middle of the day, try drinking fresh juice or going for a 10-minute walk outside. Prevention also suggests that you chew a piece of mint-flavored gum because it increases your heart rate and mint stimulates your nerve fibers.
Get Physical, But Not Before Bed
Regular physical activity can release endorphins in your body, helping you relieve stress and feel good all around. But don’t expect to see permanent results until you get into a routine. According to a Northwestern University study, most insomniacs didn’t see a sleep-related difference until they were four months into their exercise routine, reports The New York Times. Additionally, try to schedule your workouts during the day or in the morning so you aren’t still energized when you try to go to sleep.
Address the Stress
Even with all of these external factors in line, you won’t be able to get restful sleep if you’re up all night worrying about work, planning next week’s agenda or fretting about your finances. Something that works for some busy professionals is to schedule worry time. Set aside a distraction-free time to tackle your bills, answer emails and address stress-causing items on your list. When the time is up, let yourself be finished for the day. That way, when you step into your new-and-improved sleep sanctuary, you’ll have nothing to do but fall into deep, restful sleep.