Getting good quality sleep does not just happen when your head hits the pillow, but from the moment you wake up.  Our behavior throughout the day and the choices we make, especially in the last few hours of our day can significantly impact our ability to get great rest.

Here are some practical things to do during the day to improve your sleep:

1. Control Stimulants.  As a general rule, it is best to cut off caffeine by 2 pm. Try to give yourself at least eight caffeine-free hours before bedtime. Nightly alcohol also disrupts your sleep quality.  Some people may believe a couple of glasses of wine can help them fall asleep quickly, which may be true, but the problem is that sleep hinders the REM stage, which is the most restorative.  That’s why even when getting many hours of sleep after a night of drinking, we wake up exhausted because alcohol has gotten in the way. The rule is if we are going to have a drink, make it at least three hours before bed; for two drinks, at least four hours before sleep.

2. Get Sunlight Exposure. The more daylight you soak up, the happier and the more alert you will be, which will allow you to sleep better at night since some of that energy has been expended earlier.  Even if you may not be able to get outside, sitting near a window can also help.  Studies show that on average, employees whose offices have windows get 46 min more sleep every night.

3. Exercise. Even as little as 10 minutes of exercise per day can dramatically improve the quality and consistency of your sleep. For one thing, it is because movement tires the body, which increases the chances that you’ll be sleepy when it is time for rest. Sleep specialist Matthew Walker recommends visiting the gym after work rather than before because it is a great way to reduce stress after a day at the office.  The movement helps burn off any tension, which enables you to wind down more easily and relax when you get to bed. Taking more walks can help boost your energy so the next time you need to make a phone call or have a meeting, why not combine it with walking?

4. Eat Well. The food we consume throughout the day has a surprisingly strong impact on our sleep. In particular, eating saturated fats and sugar is associated with a harder time falling asleep. Fat requires the body to work overtime, which makes it more difficult for us to feel comfortable. Regularly eating a cheeseburger and french fries – especially for dinner – causes your sleep quality to suffer, and frequent sugar intake raises energy arousal. Accordingly to an Australian study, spicy food may also disrupt your sleep.  In addition to the higher fat levels, it can increase your internal body temperature, which needs to lower for you to have restful sleep. If you eat these foods too close to bedtime, your body expends energy in digestion rather than helping your brain fall asleep. Many studies would advise not eating at least 3 hours before bed.

The choices you make during the day can have a major impact on the quality of sleep you have. When you are eating healthy, exercising, getting appropriate sunlight, and avoiding stimulates like caffeine or alcohol late in the day, you are creating the conditions for the best sleep of your life.

Quote of the day: “Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night.” ― Charles Fisher

Q: What are some productive daytime activities that help you sleep better at night?  Comment and share with us, we would love to hear!

The next blog in this sleep series 4/4 will focus on optimizing your nighttime routine.

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Make healthy eating choices for better sleep