A good workout that gets your heart pumping and muscles flexing works wonders on promoting sleep. Regular physical activity makes it easier for you to get to sleep and improves the quality of your sleep. For maximum benefit, avoid rigorous activity three to four hours before bed. Body temperature rises when you exercise, which can make it hard for you to get to sleep.
Exposure to sunlight influences circadian rhythm, which is controlled by brain cells in the hypothalamus. These cells respond to light and dark signals from our environment, and set off reactions in our bodies to either wake us up or make us sleepy. In the mornings, it triggers the release of cortisol, a stimulating hormone, which raises body temperature. “Sunlight is a strong stimulus for wakefulness in humans,” says Nancy Foldvary, DO, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Cleveland Clinic and author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Sleep Disorders. “So, getting sun exposure promotes wakefulness during the day and can help people sleep at night.” Darkness, on the other hand, triggers our brains to produce melatonin, a hormone that regulates circadian rhythm and promotes sleepiness.
Think of your bedroom as your private retreat where you go every night to be renewed. Here’s how to turn it into the ideal environment for sleep:
Preferences for bedding vary widely, so be sure to test out a mattress for a good 15 minutes before you buy.
Body temperature naturally falls at night. By keeping the room cool, your body will mimic its surroundings.
You might even try using an eye mask. Darkness helps stimulate the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleepiness.
It doesn’t matter whether you soak in the tub, read a good book, or listen to your favorite music, the key is doing the same thing every night, so your body gets the signal that you’re prepping for sleep.