Between the longer days and post-vacation jetlag, summertime can leave your sleep schedule in disarray — making you sluggish during your workouts or causing you to skip them altogether.
How can you get back into a sleep routine? “The most important thing to remember is that we are creatures of habit, and habits form quickly,” says Sara DiVello, bestselling author of “Where in the Om Am I?,” nationally known yoga instructor and teacher of Restful Sleep workshops across the U.S. “When you’re transitioning back from vacation to real-life mode, you need to retrain your body when it’s time to rest.”
These seven tips can help you reset your internal sleep clock and get you back to optimum performance levels:
1. WATCH WHEN YOU EAT
A study from Harvard University found that animals’ circadian rhythms switched to match food availability. When facing jet lag, the researchers suggest fasting for approximately 16 hours could help reset your sleep clocks. You can attempt this without jet lag, too, such as when you lost sleep from a late-night summertime barbeque. Try eating dinner at 5 p.m. and not eating again until breakfast the next day at 9 a.m. — and make sure those two meals are full of nutrient-dense food. Then stick to regular mealtimes for a few days after to ensure your circadian rhythm retunes itself.
2. WATCH WHAT YOU EAT
“When you’re tired, it’s easy to indulge in sweet carbohydrates to keep your energy levels up,” says Martin Rawls-Meehan, sleep expert and CEO/co-founder of the sleep technology company Reverie. “This will just make you crash, and further hurt your body’s ability to process glucose, something it already has trouble doing when tired.” He advocates snacking on healthy fats like nuts, grass-fed milk and cheese to feel satiated.
3. TURN DOWN THE LIGHTS
“One to three hours before you want sleep, lower the lights,” says DiVello. She advises dimming the lights in your home, turning your cellphone on night mode and turning down its brightness level, as well as avoiding the television. You can also try wearing blue-light blocking glasses; they provide protection from indoor and outdoor high-energy visible blue light and ultraviolet light. These glasses help alleviate lighting you can’t control.
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4. NAP SMART
Sometimes a midday rest feels necessary, and it’s actually quite a common activity. According to a 2009 Pew Research Center study, 1/3 of U.S. adults take naps. But you need to be smart about how you do it. “If you can, give in to a nap early in the day, ideally before noon,” says Rawls-Meehan. He favors containing your nap to either a brief 25 minutes or a longer 1.5 hours for a full sleep cycle.
5. USE LAVENDER OIL
Long known for its therapeutic properties, lavender oil can allegedly activate relaxation and sedation, according to the U.S. National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine. DiVello recommends climbing into bed and applying the oil “to your inner wrists in a slow, mindful, intentional way.” Its effects should start working quickly. A study from the University of Vienna suggests lavender oil is rapidly absorbed through the skin and reaches peak concentration in 20 minutes.
6. THINK LIKE A SCIENTIST
Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University suggest following a more mathematical approach based on time zone distance to rid yourself of jet lag. The formula: Move your schedule forward by one hour for each additional time zone east and you move and move your schedule backward one hour for each additional time zone west. For example, if you travel to a destination six hours west, get light from 3 p.m. to 9 a.m. and avoid light from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. If traveling east, get light from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and avoid light from 3 a.m. to 9 a.m. to reset your circadian rhythm.
7. TAKE A WARM SHOWER
The temperature drop between a warm shower and a cooler room causes an L-tryptophane response in the body, notes DiVello. A study found L-tryptophane causes a positive change in total sleep time, as well as improved feelings. To do this, try taking a warm — not hot — shower before bed, as the water warms your skin and lowers your internal body temperature. Then keep your bedroom between 60–67°F, considered the ideal sleep temperature by the National Sleep Foundation.
GEAR UP FOR SLEEP