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6 Ways to Improve Sleep with a Digital Sunset

We know that we need, on average, 8 hours of restful sleep. When we do not get enough sleep, nearly all aspects of our health begin to unravel because of how our need for sleep is intertwined with a range of our body’s health mechanisms.

When you practice Habits of Healthy Sleep, you experience the following rewards:

  • A decreased and better-regulated appetite, so you are more likely to eat healthier portions
  • Improved decision-making, which can help you to make healthier decisions in general
  • A less extreme reaction to stress as a lack of sleep can amplify your stress response
  • Better relationships as a well-rested person is less likely to be irritable
  • A host of recovery rewards that can improve everything from your muscles to your memory

Even if you do not know all of the science, you likely understand intuitively that sleep is important. We hear about it throughout our lives, and we know how awful it feels when we get a poor night’s sleep. Yet, a lack of healthy sleep is a global health problem.

The causes of that problem are numerous, such as our tendency to reach for caffeine for a late-day boost, but one of the most common Habits of Disease is our obsession with screens. Our cell phones are extensions of our bodies, and we have computer screens and television screens and tablet screens littered around our homes. These devices activate our brains when we should be winding down for bedtime—nothing like an angry email from your boss at 9:30 pm to trigger a new wave of stress—and the light from these screens disrupt our circadian rhythms. Our bodies are wired to transition into sleep as the sun sets, but our phones confuse that mechanic.

If you want healthy sleep, managing your screen time can create a big win for your health.

Here’s what you should do:

  1. Set a bedtime by counting back 8 hours from when you need to wake up.
  2. Program your DVR to record your favorite late-night television shows so that you can watch them later.
  3. Cover up ambient light sources in your bedroom, such as LED bulbs on cable boxes or a streetlight that shines in from outside when your blinds are open.
  4. Two hours before your bedtime, dim the lights in your home and turn off devices with screens, such as phones and televisions.
  5. If you need your phone on, install a blue light filtering app and turn off notifications for email and social media.
  6. Start a relaxing nighttime routine that might include running a bath, reading a book, or meditation.

If you are not using a digital sunset in your life already, you may need some time to adjust to this new routine, but the rewards of getting restful sleep will make those growing pains well worth it.

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