Health is a broad, umbrella term with different categories besides just physical health. As an exercise-science major, I address physical health frequently, but that’s not the only component of health that should be on your radar. Emotional health—your sense of well-being and your ability to take on life’s challenges—is important too, and sleep is one positive way to increase or maintain emotional health. As Harvard Health notes, insomnia can disrupt emotional regulation, which in turn wrecks havoc on symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. I’m not a sleep-inducing sorcerer, but I have created a geek’s guide into getting the best sleep possible.
1. Wind Down
It’s so easy after a long day to climb into bed with the iPad and catch up on TV, but research shows that this can keep you awake long hours into the night. Instead, try reading or doing puzzles. (Check out Twin Cities Geek‘s book or comic reviews if you’re looking for something new to read!) Another option is to listen to books on tape or some podcasts to try and unwind. There are many to choose from, but may I suggest Panels and Pizza, a local podcast about the Minnesota comic-book scene.
2. A Routine is Pristine
Please don’t be like the Winchester brothers, hunting for vampires at all hours of the night on an unpredictable schedule. Sticking to a regular rhythm provides your body with a signal that it’s time to go to sleep each time. Try sticking to a small time frame for sleep. My range is around 9:00 to 10:00 p.m., but that’s because I need a lot of sleep in order to function like a normal adult.
3. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Big Meals
As someone who loves coffee and black tea, this one is the hardest for me to follow. Chugging that Mountain Dew might help you finish a project, but it could backfire when it comes time to sleep. Caffeine can increase heart rate and stimulate your brain, making you stay awake. Alcohol on the other hand can irritate the bladder, causing that awkward moment at 3:00 a.m. where you want to go back to bed, but you keep dreaming about your toilet. Big meals don’t negatively impact everyone, but having a big meal can cause indigestion or heartburn which can be super uncomfortable. Again, everyone is different, so if you’re craving those Chipotle leftovers in the fridge at midnight, I’m not stopping you—but if you find that your insides are keeping you up, you might want to think twice.
4. Snack Smart
This may sound contradictory to what I just said about food, but small snacks can be helpful. If you go to sleep on an empty stomach, you may feel that grumble early in the morning. But your before-bed snack should be something low in sugar content, such as half a turkey sandwich, a small bowl of whole-grain cereal, or a banana.
The holidays make many of us geeks very busy. In the midst of putting off Christmas shopping and scheduling board-game nights with friends, we want to feel fully recharged to tackle all of our daily tasks. If you try these tips and still can’t seem to count sheep before 2:00 a.m., seeing a doctor might be the next step. It’s okay to take care of yourself first—you’re worth it.
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