Tag Archives: How to Wake Up

Secrets of Sleep Hygiene: 5 Ways to Make Your Body Your Medicine

Sleep disorders such as insomnia are generally caused by a variety of stressors, many of which tend to overlap with and exacerbate each other. Sleep itself is a very complex physical process, and sleep studies that explore the mechanisms of sleep disruption constitute a large body of expanding research. Recently, notion of “Sleep Hygiene” has come into focus as an effective and holistic technique for curing disordered sleeping habits. This comes as a relief to many, as simple fixes like sleep medications have frustrated numerous individuals with their inconsistent effectiveness and long-term usage issues. But, before we delve into what good sleep hygiene is, let us provide an overview of the general concept.

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep Hygiene is the blanket term for good sleep habits. Recent research has established that certain lifestyle guidelines, if followed, can vastly enhance the quality of sleep in even the most disordered sleepers. This is exciting news, as it allows for long-term solutions for insomnia without the use of dependency inducing medications. While such medications can offer short-term relief, in the long run they often prove counter-productive for many patients. While a health professional should always be consulted about what is right for you, the following tips for good sleep hygiene should help reduce sleep disturbances and help you sleep better.

Sleep Hygiene Tips

alarm clock

1. Get Regular with Your Rhythm

Timing is essential to getting a good night sleep, but if you are having trouble either going to bed or getting up it indicates that your body’s timing is off. The first step to fixing disordered sleeping is to create a sleep rhythm. Eventually your body will adjust to the pattern, and you will reestablish a healthy sleep schedule. Try to:

  • Make a go-to-sleep ritual. You can read a book, watch a show, brush your teeth, have a light snack, clean up your room, or take a warm bath. However, try to do these things in the same order every night. Building a ritual will help you relax before you go to sleep.
  • Get up at the same time every morning. Yes, try to get up at the same time even on weekends.
  • Keep a regular meal schedule. Your circadian rhythm is influenced by your meal schedule- this is why many people say that to avoid jet-lag one should start eating along the time-frame of their destination a day before their flight. Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner around the same time every day, and your body will fall into rhythm.
  • Regular exercise. Getting exercise will help tire you out and prepare your body to want to sleep. However, avoid working out strenuously for at least six hours before you want to sleep, as this will prove counter-productive to falling asleep.

Creating a Sleep Environment

2. Create a “Sleep” Environment

If you use your bed for anything other than sleep or sex, you are training your body to associate the bed with stimulating activity and not sleep. The following tips will help you create the proper sleep Feng Shui in your bedroom.

  • Temperature control. Sleepiness is associated with a drop in temperature from a state of relative warmth. So, if you take a hot bath 1-2 hours before bedtime, it will raise your body temperature, and then cause you to feel sleepy as your body temperature drops again. In addition, maintain a steady environmental temperature in your room during the night, as temperature variation can disrupt the sleep cycle.
  • Cave décor. The ideal sleeping space is like a cave: dark, quiet and comfortable. If your sleeping area is too stimulating, this could be preventing you from falling asleep.
  • Avoid blue light. Blue light, the kind found in most electronics, is associated with increasing wakefulness. Keep the TV, computer, and illuminated alarm clocks out of the bedroom to decrease light exposure before bed.
  • Increase natural light in the morning; decrease light at night. Exposure to natural light lets your body know it is time to get up. Try to open the curtains or orient your bed such that you are exposed to natural morning light as you wake up. Or, if this is not possible, try and spend at least 15 minutes outdoors in the sunshine each morning. Similarly, reduce light exposure at night. Dim the lights a few hours before you go to sleep.
  • Noise control. Noise pollution, whether it wakes you up or not, has a deleterious effect on your body and your sleep cycle. It increases your heart rate, disrupts deeper states of sleep. Often times since you do not wake up, you will have no idea it is harming you. Consider getting a white noise machine or listening to brainwave entrainment music. Or, just buy a fan to put in your room; for mild disturbances this is usually sufficient.
  • Pillow and mattress comfort. If you wake up feeling tired after a full night’s sleep, or find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, your pillow or mattress might be the culprit. Bad ones can keep your tossing and turning all night, and this not only makes it hard for you to get into a deep sleep but can caused bodily soreness and pain.

Food for Sleep Nutrition

3. Sleep Nutrition

While it is a common adage to say, “You are what you eat”, it is also true that “You sleep how you eat”. Here are some nutritional tips to enhance your sleeping quality.

  • Eat for sleep. Foods high in melatonin, tryptophan, calcium, or with a high-glycemic index can help your body sleep at night. A few examples of such foods include cherries, fish, walnuts, almonds, dairy products, white rice, and green leafy vegetables.
  • Helpful Supplements. Various people have found homeopathic herbs and vitamins to be helpful for inducing sleep. Common ones include melatonin, chamomile tea, lemon balm, valerian, and trypophan.
  • Avoid heavy meals after 8pm. Digestion takes up a lot of bodily energy, and will force your body to work while it should be resting. Avoid heavy meals past 8pm to reduce the stress digestion has on the body during sleep.
  • Light snacks before bedtime. An empty stomach can be distracting and lead to 3am snack calls. If you wake up hungry, try to have a light snack (like the classic warm milk) before bed. Just try to avoid foods with stimulants like sugar.
  • Stimulants. Caffeine and Nicotine are stimulants that will keep you awake and reduce sleep quality. Avoid caffeine past lunch. Avoid nicotine at least two hours hour before bed.
  • Alcohol. While alcohol can make you drowsy and in certain quantities induce sleep, it actually disrupts your natural sleep rhythm and can cause mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea, which is very harmful. Try to avoid alcoholic drinks 1-2 hours before sleep.

Stress Free Bedtime

4. Get Rid of Stress Before You Go to Bed

Insomnia and poor sleep are often either related to or a cause of stress, which only exacerbates the underlying issues at hand. Here are some tips and methods to reduce anxiety and de-stress.

  • Keep a worry diary. Insomnia often involves worried or anxious thinking when you try to go to bed. If you tend to lie in bed and stress out about the day, then consider keeping a “stressful things” diary. Each day for about 30 minutes before bedtime, write down the things that are stressing you out. This exercise will allow you to put down and put aside the things that are causing you anxiety until the next day, when you are in a better position to tackle them.
  • Avoid stimulating activity before bedtime. Avoid competitive games or stimulating movies before bedtime, as they increase adrenaline and blood pressure.
  • Engage in a quiet activity. Reading, drinking herbal tea, a bath or shower, or light cleaning can be relaxing and quiet activities to engage in before bedtime.
  • Try relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided visualization may help relieve muscle tension and reduce anxiety.
  • Soothing Music. De-stress with some soothing music as you get ready for bed.

Peaceful Sleeping

5. General Tips

  • Only go to bed when sleepy. If you are not tired, try some of the suggestions listed above to help you get relaxed, but do not try to go to bed if you know you are too stimulated. That will prove frustrating and further delay sleep.
  • If you cannot fall asleep, get up. If you find yourself unable to sleep after having lain in bed for over 20 minutes, just get up and do some little task or read a short article.
  • Keep a sleep diary. Keeping track of daily sleep habits can be helpful for your self-understanding of your sleep problems, and can provide a useful record if you decide to seek a health professional.
  • Avoid naps after 3pm. Even if you had a poor sleep the night before, it is better to just keep on your intended schedule rather than take a nap. If you do take a nap, try and keep it before 3pm.
  • Minimize Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. In excess, these things will just keep you awake, and reduce sleep quality.
  • Reserve the bed for sleeping and sex. Do not play games, watch TV, talk on your cell, or eat in bed. Teach your body to associate bed with sleep.

Sleep Hygiene involves making lifestyle changes, so it can often seem daunting to those already stressed out and anxious from lack of sleep. However, if you or someone you know consistently has trouble falling asleep, waking up, or awakening often during the night, you should strongly consider looking to the above guidelines for revising your sleep habits.

The Best iPhone Apps for Falling Asleep and Waking Up

Falling asleep can be hard; waking up can be harder. Here are the best IOS apps for falling asleep and waking up- brought to you by SleepBetterShop.

Apps for Falling Asleep

White Noise AppWhite Noise Apps: In layman’s terms, white noise is specific type of noise used to mask background sounds. White noise apps can be useful in preventing outside sounds that distract you from falling asleep or wake you up during sleep. Try White Noise/White Noise Lite. Recommended by Dr. Oz, it features ambient sounds such as “Ocean Waves”, “Brown Noise”, as well as “Stream Water”, and the ever-popular “Air Conditioner.”

Sleep & BrainwavesBrainwave Entrainment Apps: The theory behind brain entrainment music is that certain aural frequencies can be created and optimized to encourage the brain to fall into deep meditation or sleep. BrainWave by Banzai Labs is a popular Binaural Brainwave Entrainment app with over 30 ambient sounds and alarms. Brainwave is great for more than just sleep- as it also has tones for concentration, energy, and meditation.

Sleep & Relaxation AppRelaxation Technique Apps: If anxiety is all too eager to pull an all-nighter with you, then apps aimed at reducing stress before bedtime will help you falling asleep faster. Relax & Rest Guided Meditations features deep breathing techniques, guided meditations, and music relaxation to help you de-stress and fall asleep fast. A great runner up is Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson, mainly because he sounds like Sean Connery.

Apps for Waking Up

Sleep Apps that Gradually Wake You UpAlarm Apps to Gradually Wake You Up: Waking up to a blaring alarm clock is unpleasant and, with the right app, completely unnecessary. ZenAwake is a great alarm app that has a variety of alarms that start out calm and soothing, and over the course of roughly 10 minutes slowly get louder and more energetic. Great for those who are sensitive to alarms, but more sensitive to being jolted awake in the morning.

sleep-cycleAlarm Apps that Follow Your Sleep Cycle: Waking up in the middle of deep sleep can leave you disoriented and unhappy. Luckily new apps on the market can be programmed to only wake you up at your lightest sleep phase. This reduces that “groggy” feeling one gets after waking up. SleepCycle– Sleep Cycle is a “bio-alarm” that uses the accelerometer in IOS devices to monitor sleep movements such as rolling around in order to determine which sleep phase the sleeper is in. In a set frame around when you want to wake up, it determines when you are in your lightest sleep phase and wakes you up.

wake&shakeExtreme Alarm Apps to Wake You Up: Sometimes only the big guns will do. Big guns like canons going on off right around your bed. If you need extreme sounds in the morning, check out Wake N Shake. This merciless alarm clock has no snooze button, and requires you to vigorously shake it to stop the blaring alarm. It comes with volume controls, variable alarm sounds and a shuffle sounds option to keep you on your toes, but one thing you will no get is mercy.

That’s our roundup of apps for falling asleep and waking up. Check them out and take control of your sleep cycle!

How to Wake Up Refreshed (Even if You are a Natural Night Owl)

We have all been there. Laying in bed. Our pillow is calling us, calling to us that it is just the right temperature for once, and it wants to show its love for us with the perfect amount of softness. And sure, the alarm is blaring, but it can be snoozed for just twenty more minutes.

If you haven’t ever felt like this, lucky you. Most people, however, tend to feel pretty crappy in the morning. Even with a good night’s sleep (and that itself can be hard to come by), sometimes you cannot avoid feeling downright sleepy. Here are some tips to help you feel refreshed no matter when you want to wake up.

Glass of Water

Drink Water: Dehydration makes you sleepy, and chances are when you wake up your body is a dehydrated after 7+ hours without water. So, before you reach for the coffee, milk, or juice, drink an 8oz glass of water to wet your whistle. You will be surprised at the difference this makes.

Oil it Up: Some alarm clocks now have sophisticated aromatherapy mechanisms, but really all you need is a bright citrus, jasmine, or peppermint smells, which can be gotten through essential oils. Place a bottle of essential oil by your bed. The next morning, when you wake up put some on your hands, temples, or right underneath your nose. If you think the smell might disturb your neighbors, consider making tea with these flavors and scents.

alarm clock

Relocate Your Alarm Clock: The least effective spot for your alarm clock is next to your bed. Instead, move your alarm clock across the room from where you sleep so that to turn it off you have to get up. Even better, get a rolling alarm clock so you have to chase it around. The Tocky alarm clock will jump and roll around the room, and can be personalized with your own music. It’s a great alarm clock for ditching your snooze button addiction.

Set Multiple Alarm Clocks: Sometimes one is not enough. If one alarm just isn’t enough, set two. If that isn’t enough bring out the big guns: set them apart both in time and location. 

Create and Follow a Schedule: Create a daily awakening ritual. Your alarm clock can only do so much of the work. Since your body’s clock follows a circadian rhythm, if your rhythm is off your sleep cycle will follow it. Make yourself go to sleep and wake-up on schedule and stick to it. Once you wake up, follow a set agenda of things you do to get ready. For the first week or so you may find yourself in bed and over energized, and drowsy when you wake up, but the dividends pay off. Once you orient your body to a natural activity schedule, and you may find yourself relying less and less on caffeine, alarm clocks, and other forms of external stimulation.

Place a huge bird feeder outside your window: Neighborhood birds and squirrels will flock there in the morning, like a natural alarm clock. You could also get a rooster, but your entire block will hate you.

Take a Shower: A quick shower as soon as you get out of bed will cause your body to encounter variable temperature conditions, which will increase circulation throughout your body and wake it up. Alternatively, splash cold water on your face, as that does essentially the same thing.

Exercise for Better Sleep

Exercise: Get your blood moving in the morning through exercise.You do not need a full gym regime (though that is probably the most effective). Even doing a few jumping jacks right after your turn off your alarm will wake your body up and get those muscles out of their stupor.

Stimulate your Brain: If physical exercise isn’t your thing, exercise your brain. Play Sudoku, try the crossword, or read a newspaper to get your brain awake. While morning talk shows might entertain you, they won’t wake you up as well as more active engagements.

Direct Sunlight: Natural light is nature’s most effective wake up call. Sunlight causes the body to release wake-up hormones that are very effective for telling your body to wake up. Brighten your bedroom and allow in natural light in each morning. Or, soak in the Vitamin D outside a coffee or a tea cafe, and you should be jumping with liveliness by the time you get the office.

Breakfast for Better Sleep

Have Breakfast: They do not call it the most important meal of the day for nothing. Mastication and digestion force the body to wake-up, making it harder to fall back asleep. Moreover, try to wake up your senses by eating stimulating foods like citrus fruits and caffeinated tea or coffee.

Ditch the extra layers: The bed is a warm, comfortable, and soothing place. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes we need that chill factor to shake off that comfy feeling. It you can, try leaving some layers off (within reason) until you are fully awake.

Finally… Make Mornings A Time to Look Forward To: The above suggestions will make it easier for you to wake up in the morning, but the root cause of most morning drowsiness is dread of waking up. For most of us, getting up means that time before going to work, school, or other daily chores. If your morning is something you do not look forward too, make it worth looking forward to. Make it the time you get to check your emails, play the crossword, read your favorite book, eat a delicious breakfast with your loved ones, listen to music, or exercise. Once you start looking forward to what you get to do after your wake up, not only will you wake up easier, but happier too. This might be the hardest step, but it is worth your while.

Each of these tips will help you wake yourself up, and the more you do the more refreshed you will feel upon awakening. Try them and see!