Routines for a Healthy Fall – Part 1, Sleep

Routines for a Healthy Fall

September represents the end of summer and the ritual of back to school and back to the grind.  As the days get shorter and our schedules get busier, it becomes necessary to establish a routine to stay organized.  To learn the magic formula for making any routine stick, you can jump over here.  For creating a routine specific for fall, we’ve focused on the 3 areas in our lives that are typically the most affected by the changes of the season: 

– Sleep

– Meals

– & Work / Study Habits

Part 1: Sleep

By the end of summer, sleep habits start to change dramatically.  Gone are the days of feeling boundless energy, stimulated by the seemingly endless daylight.  Energy levels start to fade as the days get shorter and cloudy weather starts to roll in.  Creating a sleep routine and having a better quality sleep can replenish those sapped energy reserves.

SleepRoutine

Tips for creating a Sleep Routine

  • Like Clockwork: schedule your routine the same each night so your biological clock can establish a rhythm.  Pretty soon your body will start regulating itself.  Don’t just set a bedtime, but also set a time each night that you start getting ready for bed.  Time yourself a few nights in a row to see how long it takes from the moment you start getting ready for bed, to the moment the lights are out.  This way you don’t end up blowing past your well-intentioned bedtime because you got sucked into a Netflix marathon or you forgot to let the dog out.
  • Relaxing Rituals: let your body know its time to relax by doing the same unwinding rituals each night (at the same time) before bed.  You may want to try things like having a cup of camomile tea, meditating, reading a fiction book, or having a warm bath.

Having a better Quality Sleep

  • No Screens: watching TV is a great way to unwind after a busy day, but not right before bed.  The light emitted from TV, laptop or mobile device screens is stimulating and will interfere with your ability to fall asleep quickly.  The content you are viewing just before falling asleep may also influence your quality of sleep.  Think of the last time you read stressful emails from work just before bed, or you just finished catching up on the Walking Dead series and then turned the lights out for a peaceful slumber… How did that work out for you?

Make a point of no screen time a couple hours before bedtime.  Keep electronic devices out of the bedroom or at the very least on Airplane Mode to keep unhealthy EMF’s (Electromagnetic Frequencies) from interfering with your body’s own frequency.

  • Annihilate Anxiety: if you are under stress with a busy schedule, you may experience anxiety.  Even the smallest amount of anxiety can leave you sleepless at night, laying in bed staring wide eyed into the dark, worrying and thinking about the million things you need to do/should be doing/did I FOGET TO DO?!?

Keeping a journal bedside can help tremendously when it comes to anxiety.  First of all, when you get into bed, get in the habit of writing down all the things your are grateful for that day.  Even the worst possible days have an endless list of things to be grateful for: you’re safe in a warm bed right now, aren’t you?  Surrounded by walls with power and running water?  Yep.

Next, write down the list of your biggest stresses.  Which ones of these are in your control?  Which ones are out of your control?  And which ones are maybe on the irrational and imaginary side?  Now, put a line through everything that is out of your direct control.  Voila!  Demons Vanquished!  Now you probably only have a few things left to worry about and you can prioritize which ones you will focus on tomorrow.  Now that your troubles are out of your head and sitting down there on paper, you can literally shelf them for the night and pick them back up when you’re ready.

If you suddenly wake in the night and your mind starts spinning again, get your journal out again and repeat the process (in the lowest light possible!).

  • Join the Dark Side: your body needs total darkness to produce the sleep hormone melatonin.  Cover up any lights from alarm clocks, smoke detectors, or other devices in your bedroom.  Invest in layered window coverings, making sure one of those layers are black out curtains.  Hang them high enough above your window to block light that may stream up behind them, or get a valance to fully block the light.  Now close your eyes and experience the kind of luxurious, deep and disorienting sleep that was once only available by checking in to a hotel!
  • Shhh: living in an urban area can be very noisy.  It seems there is no end to the list of disruptive sounds that threaten to offend your sleep: traffic, sirens, aircraft overhead, dogs barking, neighbours music thumping, some idiot racing somewhere with a custom muffler, homeless collecting bottles in your alley, and WTF… is that birds chirping??  Minimize the annoying distractions with a pair of earplugs or by creating ambient noise with a fan or a special white noise machine.
  • Chill: the best temperature for sleep is 18 C so set your thermostat to automatically turn down at night.  Being too hot or cold under your blankets will wreck your sleep.  Rather than sleeping with just one blanket on your bed, layer with 2 options. Have one warmer and one cooler so you have the option to snuggle up with both if you’re cold, or kick one off if you get too warm in the night.  This is also a great strategy if you share a bed with a blanket-stealing pain in the ass.
  • Let the sunshine in: try to get as much daylight exposure as possible during the day to stimulate your body during ‘awake hours’ to reinforce your sleep routine at night.  Work by natural light if you can and take frequent breaks or walking meetings outdoors.  Use full-spectrum lightbulbs to simulate sunshine in your lamps and fixtures at home and at work.

By establishing a sleep routine and enjoying a better quality of sleep, you can help your body to have more sustained energy during the day and better adjust to the shorter daylight hours and lower light levels.  If you find you are still feeling droopy after implementing your new routines, you may consider investing in a light therapy box.  These offer simulated daylight and can give you a much needed boost this time of year.