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With so many sudden changes in the way we live our lives, now’s the time to make sure you’re catch those Zzzz’s, says Mt. Laurel sleep medicine specialist, Thanuja Hamilton, MD. (Especially since sleep affects your immune system – and we need that now more than ever.)

Here are Hamilton’s 5 tips for better sleep.

 

Create a wind-down routine

Bedtime doesn’t start when your head hits the pillow.

“If you find yourself up at night with racing thoughts, try to set aside time before bed to write,” she says. “Write about what’s keeping you up. You might come up with solutions, a to-do list or a gratitude list. Whatever it is, it takes the steam out of your head and onto paper.”

Taking a shower before bed can also help.

“A warm shower helps dilate the blood vessels, which helps relax your body,” Hamilton says. “But you still want the room to be cool because our core body temperature decreases as we fall asleep. A warm shower, a cool room, and even socks help to dilate the blood vessels and help put you to sleep.”

 

Set the Alarm, Even if You Have Nowhere to Go

No matter what’s happening in the world and in your life, waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day will help you sleep better, she says. This will create a sense of normalcy that helps you fall asleep more quickly at night and will eventually help you ease back into a regular schedule when life returns to normal.

“Right now, our schedules have changed so much that we need to pay closer attention to keeping our bodies consistent,” she says. “Just because you don’t have to be up for school or work at the same time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set alarms.”

 

Don’t Binge in Bed

“Your bed should only be for sleeping,” Hamilton says. “It’s not for lounging, working or binge-watching TV, and it’s definitely not for stressing.”

Powering down your electronics 30 minutes before bed helps eliminate distractions and, in turn, helps your body power down naturally, she says.

“Your body creates melatonin when there’s no light, which helps you fall asleep,” she adds. “The light from your phone, TV or computer interferes with that.”

 

Catch Some Rays

To sleep better at night, soak up the sun during the day, says Hamilton.

“We need nutrients you absorb from sunlight like Vitamin D to maintain our internal clock’s consistency, or our circadian rhythm.”

In this time of social distancing, the best time to catch sleep-inducing rays is in the morning when the sun is up but smaller crowds allow for safe distancing. This helps set a consistent sleep cycle as well as offset increasing occurrences of seasonal affective disorder, which she says she’s seeing more of lately, even with spring approaching.

“Poor sleep also increases the risk of depression and anxiety,” she adds. “During trying times, we need to stabilize our moods as much as possible.”

 

Exercise

Getting regular exercise helps your body get rid of excess energy that keeps you awake at night.

“Just like you’re scheduling your bedtimes and wake times, schedule your fitness,” Hamilton says.

She suggests planning your workout times at least 3 hours before bed to avoid getting too amped up before you go to sleep.

“But if you want to do a bit of yoga, meditation or stretching, something relaxing, you can do that before bed,” she says.

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