Thursday, November 7, 2013

Good Sleep Habits
 extended remix

good sleep habits checklist

I already boiled down the three key bedtime habits that have been working to get me to sleep, but then I thought of a lot of other good habits, some that I have down and some that I don't. One day I will get all these little ducks in a row.

In general

Sleep well to live well and live well to sleep well, good life habits are also good sleep habits.

1. Hydration.

I drink 8 oz green tea with apple cider vinegar (new!) first thing in the morning, 16 oz water with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 8 oz black tea with chocolate in the middle of the afternoon, between 16 and 32 oz cococherry2o when working out, and 8 oz herbal tea before bed. That's like what, over a gallon of fluid—not including the workout drink, and not including the cup of coffee I drink after breakfast—and none of it sweetened, by the way.

2. Nutrition.

My general rule is protein and vegetable for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, specifically eggs and vegetables for breakfast, chicken and vegetables for lunch, fish and vegetables for dinner or a protein, a green, and a grain for dinner before workouts, chocolate and fruit for afternoon snack, and I switched to fruits and nuts (TFFY!) after workouts.

3. Exercise.

I go with a whole day philosophy or strategy of very low intensity activity mornings and afternoons, and three high, two low, and two no activity evenings for the week.

4. Meditation.

I don't have a regular meditation practice, unless you count words and maybe that does count. I'd like to make this a habit, this would be for stress reduction.

Before bedtime

Then there's stuff you should do, or not do, to set yourself up for bedtime:

5. Stop caffeinating six hours before bedtime.

That means 6:00 PM is my cutoff point, I used to be pretty bad about drinking cokes with dinner for worst results. Having regular hydration habits, see above, has pretty much pushed cokes off the table. I do usually have a cup of coffee between breakfast and lunch, but the last caffeine I have is black tea around three or four in the afternoon. I drink water with dinner, and mint or ginger tea after my workout. Tart cherry juice is also a decent bedtime drink, the sleep doctor told me that it raises your melatonin levels.

You know what I'm not sure about is alcohol. I feel like evening is when you'd drink alcohol, and alcohol is a depressant and can help you fall asleep, or you know, pass out, but it also interrupts sleep. So I think little or no alcohol for best results, no matter when. I do like a drink in the evening now and again. Not trying to justify that, actually I'm sticking a bookmark here if I'm looking for something later that could be improved on.

6. Stop eating three hours before bedtime.

Actually first of all, the flip side of this is Eat something three hours before bedtime. On the one hand you don't want to be full when you sleep, but on the other hand you don't want to be empty and hungry. Low blood sugar actually wakes me up, or keeps me from falling asleep.

Apart from that, welp, I play this sport where evenings is when you can get everybody together. And not just evenings, late evenings. I get home from late practice at 11:30 PM and I have to eat after practice, so that's this out the window. Again not justifying, it is what it is and it's an area for improvement after I'm done with derby. As Dawn says, all pluses, minuses, and choices.

7. Stop exercising three hours before bedtime.

Again, see above. In my post derby life, three hours before bedtime would put my cutoff at 9:00 PM; that'll be totally doable and desirable for me. Partly because I've never been a morning person and partly because of going on five years of derby, I actively prefer evenings for workouts. And also, I actively prefer workouts for evenings—i.e., working out is what I like to do in the evening. But I'm totally down with being done by nine, or eight-thirty I guess so I have time to eat.

8. Actually get in bed eight or even a little more than eight hours before you have to wake up.

If you want to get eight hours of sleep, you could start by actually being in the bed. Like I said, I shoot for being in bed between ten and midnight.

At bedtime

These I covered at the beginning of the week:

9. Straighten the sheets.

When I say that I make the bed when I get up, I mean that I turn down the sheets to air them out. So when I'm go to bed, I straighten and smooth them out and turn them up.

10. Turn down the temperature.

Studies show that the optimal temperature for sleep is 65°F, I definitely sleep better in a cold room. In summer, I turn on the A/C before bed. In winter, the thermostat is programmed to be colder after midnight. Which also gets me to go to bed, incidentally.

11. Turn down the lights.

This is the money habit, I also learned this from the sleep doctor for my last sleep study: darkness triggers melatonin production, and melatonin triggers sleep. When I did that overnight, I was in the throes of my worst sleep habits and a little bit panicky about having my laptop taken away at bedtime. But the doctor said it was fine, I could just dim the brightness which she measured with a meter; we took it down to like two bars, which seems like it wouldn't be light enough to see. But your eyes adjust and you can see fine, and it's absolute and not relative brightness that matters for melatonin production—so, best of both worlds. When I go to bed, I turn off the room light and turn down the brightness on my laptop and am pretty reliably asleep within thirty minutes.

12. Turn down your brain.

The one sleep tip that you always hear that I take issue with is, only sleep and sex in the bedroom. Because you can pry my laptop out of my cold dead hands, or less cliched as the brovaries girl (Claire) put it with devastating accuracy:

When was the last time I went to bed without Netflix drowning out the voices in my head? Not the crazy-people ones. My own internal monologue has been drowned out because I need to fall asleep RIGHT NOW.
I mean, what is only sleep and sex in the bedroom about. I think it's about not bringing work and stress into the bedroom, right? So as long as it's not work or stress, there could be other soporific things in the bedroom. I'm getting better, but my thoughts are still mostly of the work and stress variety. This is why I need to meditate. In the meantime if television pushes my thoughts out of the bedroom so I can sleep, then television gets to be in the bedroom. My laptop is what I watch television on. Before the sweetie man moved in, the laptop got to be in the bed.

Anyway. I just don't want to blindly follow anything, I want examine things for what they're actually about. And I think it's about not cranking up your brain in the bedroom, and in fact that means some television stays out. Definitely no Game of Thrones. Like when you have a concussion you're not supposed to watch television, and then when you do get to watch television it's supposed to be something you've already seen. Something that your brain doesn't have to work for, that's the kind of television I watch at bedtime. I have seen the first ten minutes of eight seasons of CSI: Miami by now. It was the best when Netflix would only play one episode at a time and the worst when they would continuously advance from one episode to the next, it's sort of okay now that they only automatically advance through two episodes and then you have to push a button. Which I don't, because I'm asleep and then it stays dark and quiet for the rest of the night. Up until then I have the sound way down, so I don't get woken up if somebody gets shot or screams. I'd love to make the switch to brainwave symphonies, maybe I will try that again this winter.