It’s about to be the most magical weekend of the year. No, not because it’s Halloween. Because Daylight Saving Time is about to come to an end, which means that at some point in the middle of the night between Saturday and Sunday, we get to relive a whole hour (unless you live in Arizona, in which case, you're out of luck). Hopefully, you’ll spend this hour sleeping, because if there’s one thing basically no one does enough of, it’s acquainting themselves with the elusive thing we call REM. And since we're all about self-improvement in these parts, below are some tips for how to be unconscious better.
*Phones (and tablets, and computers…) make poor bedfellows
*Aside from the obvious reasons (like how the backlight on all your tech is screwing with your body clock and keeping your mind engaged), any sleep-related apps you think might be helping you track or optimize your rest are basically one big gimmick. “There’s no way your phone can know what sleep stage you’re in. As far as we know, these apps are not scientifically reliable, so we don’t recommend them,” says Dr. Muhammed Najjar of Chicago's Northshore Sleep Medicine. Your iPhone sleep charts know nothing, Jon Snow, so take it out of the bed.
But significant others don’t
Leave it to ITG's favorite dermatologist/psychiatrist Dr. Amy Wechsler to give the sauciest tip on the list: “A great way to unwind is to cuddle or have sex with your partner. Your brain releases all kinds of feel good, stress-busting chemicals that can help you to relax and get a good night of sleep,” Done.
*Your evenings are catching up to you
*Exercising before bed is a no. It gets your heart rate up and your brain working—usually very good things, but counterproductive to sleep. Other no's: caffeine and alcohol. Both substances change your sleep architecture and might cause you to wake up in the middle of the night because of terrifying things called mini-withdrawals. They both make you have to pee, too. Let up on caffeine four to six hours before bed. Alcohol is a little more forgiving time-wise, but if you can feel it when you're falling asleep, chances are you were drinking too recently.
There’s no time like the present to start The Goldfinch
'My number one trick of the trade is to spend 15 minutes immediately before you go to sleep reading fiction,” says Janet Kennedy, Ph.D, of NYC Sleep Doctor. “Not an ax-murderer novel, but something that you enjoy that carries you away. Read until you cannot stay awake. You’re giving yourself back your 'me-time.'' No, it doesn’t have to be The Goldfinch, but really guys, it’s a great book.
Stop worrying about the numbers
Dr. Kennedy continues, “People feel pressure to get a certain amount of sleep because there’s so many messages in the media that tell us if you get less than seven hours of sleep, you're going to get fat or develop Alzheimer’s. Those messages are helpful in that they make us value sleep. On the other hand, these threats tend to put a lot of pressure on us to perform in sleep,” And where there's anxiety, there's also its trusty sidekick, adrenaline. Neither are useful when it comes to sleep.
Depending on your stressor, “Try making a to-do list earlier that evening,” Dr. Wechsler says. “You can tape it to your fridge or stick it in your bag–either way you will know that everything is written down before you go to sleep and you can avoid making the mental checklist the moment your head hits the pillow,”
Sweet dreams, folks!
Photographed by Emily Weiss.