Elisabeth Hass, Author at Somn

The Routine Sleep Factor: personal choices

The Routine Sleep Factor: personal choices

(Personal Habits • Behaviors • Choices)

Imagine yourself on vacation without chores, work assignments, or a schedule. You find yourself easing into a comfortable routine filled with delicious meals made with fresh ingredients, light exercise as you explore a new place, and of course, lots of high-quality sleep. Here, your behaviors, habits, and choices are designed for enjoyment and relaxation, which primes your mind and body for better rest. The routine sleep factor describes how our personal habits, behaviors & choices impact our sleep.

But, back at home, life is rarely like this. Instead of strolling along the beach, we’re commuting in heavy traffic. And, rather than eating a fresh meal, we’re ordering a pizza. The Routine factor encompasses the daily behaviors that impact sleep, like diet, bedtime and wake time, exercise, and the number of caffeinated drinks we drink.

How we assess the routine sleep factor

However unwieldy our day-to-day may be, we all have routines we follow from morning to night. The question is: Do they support or hinder sleep? One easy way to answer this question is to keep a sleep journal. This tool helps you track your daily habits and uncover which ones lead to good sleep and poor sleep.

Explore more

The Routine Sleep Factor - Somn

Now, if you want to make a specific improvement in your sleep routine (such as waking up earlier), try taking incremental steps. For example, aim to wake up 15 minutes earlier instead of 2 hours earlier – and then progressively wake up earlier and earlier over time until you reach your goal. Change isn’t always simple but you can set yourself up for success by easing into a new routine – just like you do on vacation.

Learn more about the Somn sleep factors:

The 5 Sleep Factors - Somn

Resources to help with the routine sleep factor:

Somn Sleep Factors

Explore Your Sleep

Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs: Sofya Polyakov, Noun Project

In SomnLabs’ Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs series, we talk with leading founders and creators to explore the role of sleep in innovation. Recently, we spoke with Sofya Polyakov.

Sofya is the CEO & Co-Founder of Noun Project (the biggest and most extensive collection of the world’s visual language built by a global community of designers), and COO & Co-Founder of Lingo (a modern digital asset manager for brands and products). She has 8 years of experience as a tech entrepreneur, is active in the LA tech community, an advisor to early-stage startups, and serves as President of the LA Associates Board for Teach for America.

The Basics

In SomnLabs’ Sleep Habits of Entrepreneur series, we talk with leading founders and creators to explore the role of sleep in innovation. Recently, we spoke with Sofya Polyakov.

Name: Sofya Polyakov
Age: 37
Avg. Caffeinated Drinks Per Day: 2 (one in the morning, one after lunch)
Avg. Naps Per Week: 1
Avg. Hours of Sleep Each Night: 7

Sofya’s Sleep Profile

Do you feel like you’ve figured out your sleep?

Yes, but, these days I’m not getting the kind of sleep that’s best for me. My six month old wakes up at night and recently my three year old started getting up at 5:00 am. So, my sleep is interrupted and fluctuates depending on when the kids are asleep or awake.

How do you define “good sleep”?

I’m a firm believer in getting eight hours of sleep. It really helps me be creative and productive. I would love to go to bed at 10:00pm and not wake up until 6:00am without being interrupted.

What happens in your work and life when you don’t get quality sleep?

It depends on how bad of a night it was and how many nights in a row I haven’t slept well. If I’ve had a couple nights with little sleep, I get a huge migraine. It’s almost like feeling hungover.

I read an interesting article about scientists who saw that blood vessels in our brain shrink when we’re asleep and flush out waste that builds up. And, this is how I think of sleep – it’s this time for the brain to process and clear things out. So, one of the ways I deal with bad sleep is to drink a bunch of water the next day. Having an extra coffee helps to an extent. But for me, it’s more about getting hydrated and helping my brain refresh.

How do you start your day?

The morning is all about the kids. My husband, Edward, and I will get them ready for the day and take our toddler to preschool. I’ll always make time to have a healthy breakfast, though. My go-to breakfast is steel cut oatmeal with berries and nuts, and a glass of room temperature water.

Do you have any evening rituals?

Yes, my nightly ritual is taking a shower. I’ve been doing this for years and it really helps me relax. It’s my “me time”.

What helps you sleep?

For the last ten years I’ve been sleeping with sound in the background – usually from a fan or sound machine. We’re right in the middle of Los Angeles, so there’s noise outside from traffic and sometimes the neighbors.

Beyond sound, I need the bedroom to be at a cool temperature (we usually set the room to 68 degrees) and have a heavy blanket – not in terms of heat but just the feel of it. We also have a king size bed so there’s plenty of room.

What about your work makes it harder for you to sleep?

Those moments when my mind is racing because I’m really excited or stressed about something. Or my thoughts are jumping from one thing to another. I call it Monkey Mind. And now, I use meditation to tame it. I got into meditation through a weekly podcast made by the Hammer Museum and UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. It helps me deal with all the stress and anxiety.

Now, when I find my mind racing, I make a conscious effort to do a body scan meditation. Usually by the time I get to my knees, I’m calm.

Do you feel like you balance sleep and work?

In the early days, when we were first starting the company, it was a lot harder to create this balance. Now that The Noun Project has grown and is more stable, it’s become easier to find time to practice more self-care.

What sleep advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Put away your phone at night. It’s easy to use this technology too much, especially for work. Some people will be on their phone, checking in on work, right before bed and when they wake up in the morning (and if then wake up at night, they’ll look then, too). This just brings unnecessary stress.

Learn more about The Noun Project at thenounproject.com

Read more of our Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs Series…

What to do next…

Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs: Charles Adler, Kickstarter

In SomnLabs’ Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs series, we talk with leading founders and creators to explore the role of sleep in innovation. This week, we talked with Charles Adler.

Charles co-founded Kickstarter in 2009, shaping it into the world’s largest platform funding independent creative endeavors. Since it’s inception, Kickstarter has raised over $3.5B from over 15M people for over 150,000 successful projects including computer games, music albums, technology, fashion, educational projects and full length feature films.

Today, Charles is the Founder of Lost Arts, a new experiment in the future of work that aims to drive innovation through open support of creativity.

The Basics

Name: Charles Adler
Age: 44
Avg. Caffeinated Drinks Per Day: 1.5
Avg. Naps Per Week: 0
Avg. Hours of Sleep Each Night: 6.5

Charles’ Sleep Profile

How do you define “good sleep”?

I’ve got two kids, Phoebe and Noah. And, like most parents, I’m interrupted during the night by them. So, good sleep means uninterrupted sleep.

I also feel like I slept well if I recall the fact that I had a dream. I don’t remember my dreams most of the time, but, if I know I dreamed, it signals to me that I got deep sleep.

Are you happy with your sleep?

No. I’ve always been a night owl and a morning person. So, that puts constraints on the amount of sleep I get. Plus, with kids, there’s those nightly interruptions. So, I don’t always feel completely rested when I wake up.

How do you balance sleep and work?

For me, sleep and work get in the way of each other. In the morning, I wish I could get more sleep. At night, I wish I could get more work done. When I stay up and work, it’s because I’m excited to get something done. And, I feel like it’s better to keep working because I’ll lose track of what I’m working on if I go to sleep.

What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed?

Check email, Facebook, and Twitter and then put my phone in Airplane Mode so I don’t get alerts while I’m sleeping. I’ve worked hard to get rid of all the unnecessary notifications from different apps, and it really helps during night and the day.

How do you usually to start your day?

My alarm goes off (or Noah wakes up me and my wife up), then I usually glance at my email and tend to the kids. Ideally, I’d like to wake up without an alarm at 5:00 am and go for a bike ride. When I bike in the morning, it changes my energy during the day. It creates less stress and helps my creativity.

When is your most productive time of day?

Morning is when I have a lot of mental, creative energy. I started arranging my days to conserve that time for coding, designing, and researching. And, I schedule meetings and admin work for the afternoon.

What sleep advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Now I, just like many others, don’t get perfect sleep. But, here are some things that help me:
1. No coffee past 11:00 am.
2. No soda ever.
3. Minimize heavy foods.
4. Exercise (I run and cycle, and just started pilates)

Learn more about Charles Adler at charles-adler.com

Read more from the Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs Series…

What to do next…

Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs; Losing Sleep for Success?

In SomnLabs’ Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs series, we talk with leading founders and creators to explore the role of sleep in innovation. We will explore how they manage their sleep & work

When you’re building and running your own company, it’s difficult to balance work and sleep. The demands are high, time is short, and sleep can seem more like a luxury than a necessity.

Sacrificing sleep for work?

As a culture, we’ve somehow come to expect entrepreneurs to sacrifice sleep. We have an ingrained image of entrepreneurs as smart, decisive, and – most importantly – tireless. They sleep as little as possible because they are completely dedicated to their work. They are a martyr to their métier. And, we revere their constant work because they’re doing something ambitious. But, sleep scientists see it differently. They know that expecting someone to sacrifice sleep for their work is equivalent to expecting their work to fail.

Thomas Edison, once said, “Sleep is a criminal waste of time, inherited from our cave days.” The truth is, sleep is as fundamental to our 21st-century lives as it was before the dawn of civilization – especially for entrepreneurs like Edison. When founders and creators don’t get the sleep they need, the abilities they rely on become rickety and hallow. Memory, concentration, problem-solving, reasoning, and emotional control are all compromised by sleep deprivation. And, it doesn’t take long for the effects to manifest. Just one night of sleep loss severely impairs our ability to juggle tasks and adapt to new situations.

We know that sleeplessness played a part in many historic disasters, like Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez explosion. So, it’s not hard to imagine the impact it can have on a new, risky venture (without hundreds of contingency plans). The question is:

Why does our culture promote the myth of the tireless entrepreneur? We know that sleep is the engine of innovation, creativity, empathy, and intelligence

Sleep – the best advantage

Despite the lore of the sleepless entrepreneur, not all modern innovators neglect sleep. Yes, there are those like Elon Musk who often clock 120-hour work weeks and leave little time for rest. But, there are also founders out there like Jeff Bezos, who prioritize shut-eye. In order to explore the relationship between entrepreneurship and sleep, we spoke with a few founders, including Charles Adler (Kickstarter), Sofya Polyakov (The Noun Project), Dulcie Madden (Rest Devices), and Max Temkin (Cards Against Humanity). During the conversations, we heard some great sleep advice for entrepreneurs. And, we want to share what we learned with you.

1. Keep Your Phone Away From Your Bed

Dulcie Madden of Rest Devices put it simply: “Our phones represent work.” When we bring this technology into our bedroom, our job comes with it. A quick glance at your inbox before bed may seem harmless, but sometimes that’s all it takes to spark endless thoughts about work that keep you up at night. Not only are these devices full of distractions that can lure us away from sleep, but they also emit blue light that disrupts our circadian rhythm.

Keeping your phone by your bed impacts mornings, too. During our conversation with Max Temkin, he shared this lesson from Jim Coudal, the co-founder of Field Notes: “Jim gave me some good advice about how to end the day and start the next. He told me he used to use his phone as an alarm clock. But would wake up and see a bunch of texts and emails. It’s like the minute you open your eyes, you’re playing defense. So, now he keeps his phone out of his bedroom and it’s really improved the quality of his entire day. I started doing this, too, and it’s made a big difference.”

2. Acknowledge the Anxieties That Keep You Up At Night

When you’re growing your own business, there are infinite things to figure out and stress about. Your mind is constantly buzzing with a potent mixture of excitement and anxiety. And, when these feelings go unchecked, they can get in the way of your work and your sleep. For Dulcie Madden, communicating the anxieties helps a lot. She told us, “If I’m really stressed out about something, I won’t be able to sleep. When this happens, I try to make sure I’m being super communicative about what’s causing the stress. Just getting it out there helps me stop it from rattling around in my subconscious.”

Max Temkin also addresses stress head-on. Before bed, he uses David Allen’s practice of Ubiquitous Capture to proactively think through what he’s facing the next day. Max said, “…most people walk around with all these ideas bouncing around in their head (‘I have to do this’ ‘I need to get that’ ‘I need to send that email’) and it’s hard to turn those thoughts from stress into action. This is where Ubiquitous Capture comes in. David Allen says, ‘Write it down. Put it in a to-do list.’ Getting it out of your head and onto paper gives yourself permission to forget it and not stress out about it. So, the time before bed is a moment for me to acknowledge what’s going on tomorrow and think through any anxieties or tasks surrounding it.”

3. Hack Your Brain With Meditation

At first, meditation (like sleep) can seem antithetical to entrepreneurship. We think of founders and inventors as active and creative, not idle and silent. But, it’s in those moments when you’re not actively working that you can step back and work on yourself.

Max describes meditation as a “thought technology I can take wherever I go.” And, decades of research backs up this notion. Beyond easing stressors and calming a racing mind, meditation has also been found to decrease anxiety, increase compassion, improve memory, and foster creative thinking – making it a powerful practice for entrepreneurs.

Not only does meditation help us while we’re awake – it also advances our sleep. Scientists found that it improves the quality of two sleep stages, deep sleep and REM sleep, which are critical for restoring the body and brain.

If you’re want to start meditating, Sofya Polyakov recommends the weekly podcast made by the Hammer Museum and UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.

4. Create A Ritual That Helps You Clock Out

Charles Adler told us, “For me, work and sleep get in the way of each other. In the morning, I wish I could get more sleep. At night, I wish I could get more work done.” Many of us can relate. Sometimes, there’s just not enough time between nine and five to get everything done. Other times, you’re in the flow and don’t want to break the momentum. The energy and productivity surrounding entrepreneurship is almost hypnotic, carrying us from early mornings into late nights. And, before you know it, it’s 3:00am and you haven’t had dinner.

Closing your laptop and clocking out at night can be difficult, but it’s the first step toward a productive tomorrow. Dulcie found that it’s helpful to create a ritual that delineates work and sleep: “I’ve created good boundaries between these two areas by having a nightly break from 9:30pm to 10:00pm where I stop doing work and just talk with my husband.”

Other entrepreneurs have different routines that help them disconnect from work. Sofya’s nightly ritual is to take a shower. She said, “I’ve been doing this for years and it really helps me relax. It’s my Me Time.” And, when we asked Max about his evening ritual, he said, “I need an hour to relax before going to bed. A lot of the time I’ll read Twitter, play a game, watch TV, listen to a podcast, or read a book. Or, just lie in bed and try to not think about work.”

Read more Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs Series…

What to do next…

Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs: Max Temkin

In SomnLabs’ Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs series, we talk with leading founders and creators to explore the role of sleep in innovation. Recently, we spoke with Max Temki, Cards Against Humanity.

Max is a designer in Chicago who co-created Cards Against Humanity along with Secret Hitler and Humans vs. Zombies. He has also worked with EMILY’s List, Obama for America, Hillary for America, Jonathan Coulton, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Basics

Name: Max Temkin
Age: 31
Avg. Caffeinated Drinks Per Day: 3.5
Avg. Naps Per Week: 0
Avg. Hours of Sleep Each Night: 8

Do you feel like you’ve figured out your sleep?

Yeah, although I don’t always put what I’ve learned into practice. I know I really benefit from 8 or more hours of sleep. But, when we’re crunching on a project at Cards, I’ll sacrifice sleep to keep working.

The thing is, I’ve learned that those moments – when you’ve been working all day on a problem and want to keep pushing – those are the moments when I need to be protective of my sleep.

In college, I would always put off studying for tests and end up cramming the night before. And, at one point, I realized that if I got a full night of sleep rather than crammed, I’d do a lot better on tests. Sleep helped me remember things and be more focused. And, the same is true today.

What’s your nighttime ritual?

I need an hour to relax before going to bed. A lot of the time I’ll read Twitter, play a game, watch TV, listen to a podcast, or read a book. Or, just lie in bed and try to not think about work.

Jim Coudal from Field Notes gave me some good advice about how to end the day and start the next. He told me he used to use his phone as an alarm clock, but would wake up and see a bunch of texts and emails. It’s like the minute you open your eyes, you’re playing defense. So, now he keeps his phone out of his bedroom and it’s really improved the quality of his entire day. I started doing this, too, and it’s made a big difference.

What helps you sleep?

Getting ready for bed means looking at the calendar for the next day, and spending a few minutes thinking about how I’m going to go about it. I’ve been exploring David Allen’s Getting Things Done and one of his big concepts is Ubiquitous Capture. The idea is, most people walk around with all these ideas bouncing around in their head (“I have to do this” “I need to get that” “I need to send that email”) and it’s hard to turn those thoughts from stress into action.

This is where Ubiquitous Capture comes in. David says, “Write it down. Put it in a to-do list.” Getting it out of your head and onto paper gives yourself permission to forget it and not stress out about it. So, the time before bed is a moment for me to acknowledge what’s going on tomorrow and think through any anxieties or tasks surrounding it.

What’s your morning ritual?

It really throws me off to be rushed in the morning. So, I try to have an hour buffer to ease into the day. Right when you wake up, you’re nice and crisp. It’s this perfect moment where concentration and discipline align and spur creativity. I like to use this time to meditate and take a long shower – that’s when a lot of good ideas come to me. I’ll also reflect on what I’m doing with my day and my life, and set a goal for what I want accomplish before I come home.

How do you meditate?

I do Zazen meditation. It’s unguided. No one’s asking me to join anything or pay for anything. It can’t be taken away from me. Instead, it’s my own toolbox and set of rituals. It’s like this thought technology I can take wherever I go.

How does travel affect your sleep?

For a long time, I was going to conferences and conventions a lot. And, after each one I’d physically crumble, feel exhausted, and get sick. I thought it was just the travel. But, it turned out to be something else. When your at these events, you drink a lot more. It’s just what you do. I’m not a big drinker but I’d end up having 4 or 5 drinks each night. When I realized that drinking was affecting my sleep and health, it blew my mind. And, now I do so much better at these events and feel so much better.

What is your best time of day for productivity?

Late at night when no one can bother me and there’s no chance I’ll be interrupted.

What sleep advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Sleep is the quickest win you can have. If you are aggressive about carving out time for sleep, it will pay dividends in every aspect of your life in ways that will surprise you. People say when you have money, it’s easier to get money. It’s similar with entrepreneurship. People who have their own company can design their own schedule and prioritize sleep, which helps them be more inventive.

Also, if you own a company, you have a vested interest in your team having a full life and getting the sleep they need. I’d rather a team member sleep in and only work 3 hours at their full capacity than work for 8 hours on no sleep.

One other thing I recommend is the Apple Watch Sleep Watch. On the days when I’m snapping at people or can’t solve a problem, I’ll look at the app and see that I only got 4 hours of good sleep. Just having a measure of that is pretty amazing.

Learn more about Max Temkin at maxistentialism.com

Read more of our Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs Series…

What to do next…

Light Sleeper Problems? 20 Experts Tips for Better Sleep

When you wake, do you feel refreshed and ready to tackle your day? Or, do you wake up feeling exhausted? Do you toss and turn at night, waking at the slightest noise or movement? If so, you might be a light sleeper. We’ll explore solutions for your light sleeper problems.

While most of us have trouble sleeping once in a while, some people experience light sleep many nights of the week, seriously affecting their health, work, relationships, and daily life. In fact, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic light sleeping problems.

Not getting the recommended amount of sleep can have serious short and long-term impact on your physical and mental health. Sleep disruptions can cause weight gain, a lowered immune system, impaired concentration and memory, slower reaction time, errors, and accidents. Studies have even shown that low sleep quality impairs our cognitive and motor functions, the same way that drinking too much alcohol does.

The quality of your  sleep is affected by a number of internal and external factors. Genetics, age, and lifestyle play significant roles in the type and length of sleep stages and sleep cycles you experience. For light sleepers, the consequences of low-quality sleep can be distracting at the least and dangerous at worst. But there are many ways to improve your sleep. Here are some of our favorite tactics for conquering light sleep problems. 

How to Get the Best Sleep Possible

Nighttime Practices

1. Create a sleep environment that is dark and quiet. When it’s dark at night, your eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus that it’s time to feel tired. Your brain, in turn, sends a signal to your body to release melatonin, which makes you sleepy.

2. Give some thought to your bed’s comfort level. Research shows that your mattress, pillow, and bedding can greatly impact sleep quality by reducing joint and back pain. One study found that a bed suited for your body type can improve sleep quality by 60%.

3. Lower the bedroom temperature. Bedroom temperature has been shown to affect sleep quality even more than external noise. If the room is too warm, it can interfere with your body’s natural nightly temperature dip and make you more restless through the night. Research suggests that your bedroom should be between 60-67 degrees and that temperatures above 75 degrees or below 54 degrees can interfere with sleep.

4. Consider taking a melatonin supplement. Studies show that taking melatonin has a major impact on sleep quality and quantity. Just be sure to read the dosage recommendations on the label. Start slowly to determine the amount that’s right for you, and take the supplement about an hour before bedtime. Read more about our personal melatonin program.

5. Avoid alcohol and over-the-counter sleep medications. Research shows that those who drink before bed woke more frequently and experienced lighter sleep during the second half of the night, preventing the Level 3 and 4 sleep that restores our body and mind. In every person, alcohol metabolizes at 0.016% per hour. So, you can do the math. The more heavily you drink, the earlier you should stop drinking.

6. Avoid late-night eating, especially high-calorie foods and those that cause heartburn. This disrupts the natural release of melatonin and serotonin, which relieves anxiety and improves time spent in REM sleep. Instead, try eating a complex carbohydrate 2 to 4 hours before bed. Choose a whole grain snack like popcorn, oatmeal, or a whole grain cereal. Also consider having a little lowfat cottage cheese or milk, both of which contain tryptophan, or a fruit such as tart cherries, bananas, or oranges, which contain melatonin.

7. Establish a consistent bedtime schedule. After awhile, your brain will automatically cue you that it’s time to start feeling tired. If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read a book or listen to soothing music. Then, go back to bed when you’re tired.

8. Set up a relaxing bedtime routine. The routine tells your brain that it’s time to prepare for sleep. Try dimming the lights, taking a warm bath, playing relaxing music, lighting a lavender candle, or whatever works for you.

9. Consider a technical shutdown 2 to 3 hours before bed. The blue light emitted from computer monitors, tablets, TVs, and smartphones closely mimics the light emitted by the sun, causing our bodies to lower production of sleep-inducing melatonin. In fact, an article in Scientific American says, “The light from our devices is ‘short-wavelength-enriched,’ meaning it has a higher concentration of blue light than natural light—and blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength.”

10. Try practicing deep relaxation techniques. If you wake in the night and have a hard time getting back to sleep, try systematically tensing and releasing of each individual muscle in your body one at a time may help. Start with your toes and slowly proceeding toward your scalp while breathing deeply and concentrating on the stress leaving your body as you exhale.

11. Keep a journal. If a life event, like moving or a new job, is the source of your light sleeping problems, get the worries out of your mind and down on paper. Store your journal by your bed, and if a stressful thought occurs, take it out of your mind and commit it to paper. You can readdress that stressor in the morning, if needed. The Somn sleep journal is a great option.

12. Address the stress. If you think that your light sleeping issue is stress-related, try to figure out what’s stressing you out. If it’s situational, consider making some life changes. Otherwise, it might be time to consult a mental health professional who can teach you how to change your thought patterns or who can determine if medication is needed.

13. Consider other supplements that are scientifically proven to help you relax, reduce stress, and sleep better, but make sure to try them one at a time.

Plant-Based: Ginkgo, Valerian Root, Lavender, Passion Flower
Amino Acids: Glycine, L-Theanine, Tryptophan

14. Keep a sleep diary. This will help you identify day and nighttime habits and patterns that might be contributing to your light sleep problems. Keeping a sleep diary is also especially helpful if you decide to see your doctor or a sleep expert. Your diary should include:

  • The times that you went to bed and woke up
  • Total hours you slept and and an estimate of how much of that time you had quality sleep
  • Amount of time you spent awake and what you did (got out of bed, watched tv, drank a glass of milk, meditated, etc.)
  • Types and amount of food, liquids, caffeine, or alcohol you consumed before bed, and the times at which you consumed them.
  • Your feelings and moods before bed (happiness, sadness, stress, anxiety)
  • Any drugs or medications taken, including dose and time of consumption

A sleep diary can pinpoint day and nighttime habits that may be contributing to your problems at night. After keeping the diary for a week or two, you might notice, for example, that when you have more than one glass of wine in the evening, you wake up during the night.

Daytime Practices

15. Wake at consistent times, even on weekends. Irregular sleep patterns can confuse your circadian rhythm, causing you to lose quality sleep. Eventually, once your sleep/wake cycle is consistent, you might not even need to set a morning alarm!

16. Get some morning sun. Our eyes have special receptors called melanopsin that help us wake up and stay alert. They work in conjunction with our hypothalamus,  which controls your circadian rhythm, also known as your sleep/wake cycle. Together, they play a role in triggering the release of serotonin in the brain – the neurotransmitter that helps regulate natural sleep cycles. Getting plenty of bright light early in the day, preferably within one hour of waking will help you feel more energetic, and sleep more soundly at night. Sleep Specialist Dr. Michael Breus wrote: “Light exposure during the day boosts attention and alertness, improves mood and cognitive function, strengthens circadian rhythms and can help you sleep better at night.”

Recently, scientists at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign investigated how daylight exposure affected the health, including nighttime sleep, of a group of office workers. The study revealed that  the employees who got more sun, through office windows, slept an average of 46 minutes more than their coworkers who did not have windows. They also had more energy during the day. So, if possible, snag a desk by a window and if you don’t have access to sunlight, consider purchasing a light therapy box to use indoors. Also, try taking a walk outside on your morning break without sunglasses, which filter the full-spectrum light and confuse the signal received by your brain.

17. Avoid nicotine. Because it’s a stimulant, nicotine can reduce the amount of deep sleep you get. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University conducted a sleep study of 40 smokers and 40 nonsmokers. Five percent of the nonsmokers said they commonly experienced light sleep problems, whereas 22.5% of the smokers said they struggled with restless sleep. If you’re not ready to quit, try just cutting back, and don’t smoke close to bedtime.

18. Avoid all forms of caffeine (like coffee, black tea, some sodas, and energy drinks) or any other stimulants past noon. Researchers at Wayne State College of Medicine and the Sleep Disorders & Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital analyzed the sleep-disruptive effects of caffeine consumption at different lengths of time before bed. They found that caffeine consumed even 6 hours before bedtime resulted in significantly diminished sleep quantity and quality. If you’re in the habit of drinking coffee in the afternoon or evening, try switching to decaffeinated coffee or an herbal tea. Also, check the labels on other drinks and supplements. Diet pills can contain large amounts of caffeine or other stimulants.

19. Exercise regularly to clear your mind, but avoid working out at least 3 hours before bedtime, as vigorous exercise can increase energy. So, what is the best time of day to work out or take a vigorous walk? According to Dr. Sofie Laage-Christiansen of Aarhus University, Denmark,“Exercising in the morning daylight helps you to sleep. It helps to kick-start the brain in the same way as when you expose yourself to bright light early in the morning, and it makes the body release melatonin earlier in the evening.”A National Sleep Foundation study compared the sleep quality of those who exercise and those that don’t. Both groups said they slept about the same amount of time, but sleep quality was significantly different. And, those who exercised reported far better sleep compared who didn’t.

20. Limit naps. For some people, sleep during the day can affect sleep at night. Naps longer than 30 minutes or that occur close to your bedtime can compromise your ability to fall or stay asleep. It’s easy to see how napping can become a bad pattern: Nap during the day, sleep poorly at night, then feel sleepy during the day. Avoiding this habit is simple, though. If you truly need a siesta, keep it around 20 minutes so you get solid rest and wake up alert.

Should I call my doctor?

If you’ve tried a variety of self-help remedies without success, schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist or ask your family doctor for a referral to a sleep clinic. Light sleep problems can be related to internal factors such as age, onset of menopause, sleep apnea, asthma, depression, anxiety, or substance addiction. Medical professionals can help uncover the root causes of your light sleep problems and provide helpful treatments.

What happens if my doctor refers me to a sleep clinic?

At a sleep clinic, a specialist will observe your sleep patterns, brain waves, heart rate, rapid eye movements and more using monitoring devices attached to your body. If you can’t sleep at the clinic, a sleep specialist can provide you with equipment to monitor your activities (awake and asleep) at home.

Normally, after the sleep study is complete, the sleep specialist will send the results to your doctor, who will then schedule a follow-up visit to discuss a diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment.

Whether the cause of your light sleep problems is your lifestyle or your physical/mental health, know that there is a reason for your light sleep, and there is a solution. There are plenty of ways to improve the quality of your sleep. Slight changes to your daytime and nighttime routines can make all the difference in conquering your light sleep problems.

This article covered topics related to the Somn Sleep Factors of Mind, Routine & Environment.

Now that you have tips for light sleeper problems, here are some suggestions of what to do next…