If you’ve ever taken a prescription to help you sleep, you either slept like a dream or felt it was a waste of your money that delivered nothing more than a slew of uncomfortable side effects. Sleep doctors tell us that, when used properly, prescription sleep medication can be safe and effective. They can help you through short or long-term insomnia and are considered safer and more reliable than over-the-counter meds.
While drugs treat everything from insomnia to restless leg syndrome, reaching for a pill isn’t always the best answer. A healthy life is built on a balanced foundation of diet, exercise and sleep – and all three are equally important.
If you want to stay on the drug-free side of healthy sleep, maybe it’s time to hack your sleep – for the good of your health.
Your morning wake-up call
Lose the snooze button. Repeatedly hitting the snooze button can seriously impair morning mental function by interrupting your natural sleep and wake-up cycle.
Soak up the sunshine. Early morning light wakes up your internal rooster and sets you up for an active, productive start to the day. Can’t get outside? Turn on your phone – the backlight will do (mostly) the same job.
Hydrate and break your nightly fast. Your body has survived without water or food all night – wake up your metabolism with a big glass of water (before your first coffee) and a protein-rich breakfast. You’ll be amazed at your ability to resist cravings later in the day.
Get some exercise. Now that you’ve filled up your sleep gas tank, time to use some of that fuel to move your body. Park further away from the office, use the stairs instead of the elevator or slip out for a nooner walk.
Nap to pay back your sleep debt. If you can’t fit a solid 8 sleep hours into your night, sneak in naps to help make up the deficit. People who nap for a half hour 3 times per week reduce their chance of heart attack by 37%.
Coffee + nap = the ultimate sleep hack. Drink a cool cup of coffee and then grab a 20-minute siesta. You’ll wake up just as the caffeine hits your system and be ready to take on the rest of your day.
Ditch the energy drinks. They steal your sleep and your sanity and can contribute to significant weight gain.
Sweet dreams sleep tips
Use an alarm clock for bedtime. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you when it’s time to start powering down electronics and get ready for sleep. Take 20 minutes to finish your chores, 20 minutes for personal hygiene and 20 minutes to read quietly or relax before lights out for the night. If you must leave your phone on overnight, place it facedown on your bedside table and screen incoming calls to only top priority numbers.
Go to bed early to stop snoring AND to lose weight. Sleep triggers a hormone that regulates your appetite – skimp on sleep you’re more likely to choose high-fat, salty rather than healthy snacks. And the heavier you are, the more likely you are to snore, which can keep you – and your partner – from a good night’s sleep.
Sniff your way to sleep. Aromatherapy (ylang ylang, lavender and chamomile) have been shown to help you relax and fall asleep faster.
Optimize your bedroom for sleep. Think of your bed and pillows as performance gear. Do a sensory test of your bedroom furnishings – sight, touch, smell, sound all contribute to your good (or not so good) night’s sleep.
Use a nightlight. Bright lights wake up your brain so light your path to the bathroom with ambient lighting or a small nightlight.