While there is no simple button to press to make sure you get enough good, quality sleep each night, there are steps you can take to understand and respect your body’s rhythm.
Dr. Abdalla and Dr. Krieger agree that preparing for a good night’s sleep starts long before you tuck yourself under the covers. That means getting light exposure throughout the day, limiting caffeine intake, and managing stress.
“Getting sunlight throughout the day reminds your body that it is daytime, which helps build up the sleep drive and cues a rise in the sleep hormone, melatonin,” says Dr. Abdalla. She also suggests avoiding caffeine after 12 noon, if possible, because caffeine has a long half-life and remains in your system long after you finish an afternoon cup of coffee.
They also encourage creating a dark, cold environment for sleep, and avoiding stimuli late at night, like exercise or too much time on your phone or other device. “One of the most offensive things to sleep is our phones,” says Dr. Abdalla, who advises people to keep phones out of the bedroom and not use them as your alarm.
Stress and worry are other culprits that keep people awake at night, say Dr. Abdalla and Dr. Krieger, who both suggest keeping a worry log to get thoughts out. Meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises are other positive ways to relax and help mitigate worry.
“If you don’t process your worries throughout the day, when you lie down to sleep, they may trigger a state of anxiety,” says Dr. Krieger. “Often, I recommend that people take 10 to 15 minutes of worry time during the day, where they can sit down to think about the stressful items in their lives, and start a simple worry list with actionable items. When this is done, the effect is often quite noticeable as people start to embrace the challenges in their lives and no longer feel that acute stress and racing thoughts that used to interfere with sleep.”
Learn more about sleep and heart health at NewYork-Presbyterian.