I've written about one of the best ways to improve your sleep, which starts with eating an earlier, lighter dinner. The second sleep tip is to notice WHEN ARE YOU TIRED IN THE EVENING? This might sound ridiculously obvious, but in fact, there are a number of habitual reasons that we don’t notice when we’re tired at night. Number one is relying on stimulants like sugar and caffeine in the morning and throughout the day in order to fight feelings of fatigue. It’s a vicious cycle; due to not getting enough quantity or quality sleep, we’re tired, and then use sugar and/or caffeine, two factors which give us a false increase in energy, interfering with our ability to notice when we’re tired at night.
Maybe you remember a time when you were a kid (or more recently!), and were so tired you literally couldn’t keep your eyes open any longer. When I was about six I fell fast asleep right at the dinner table in a fine restaurant. (Although I don’t remember at all, my parents are still talking about the incident). As adults, our bodies are really not that different, but if we habitually depend on sugar and caffeine, especially in the afternoon or after a typically late dinner, we might not feel the depth of our fatigue. When eating a late dinner, which was covered in Sleep Tip #1, we’re often simply too full to go to sleep, and watch TV, get on the computer or start cleaning. In turn, that stimulates the brain and the nervous system, and we no longer FEEL tired. Have you ever fallen asleep with the TV on? Were you on the couch or in bed? Basically either way, there’s no doubt that you WERE TIRED!
When we eat an earlier, lighter dinner, skip any habitual alcohol, caffeine and sugar, and really listen to our body's cues, we notice there’s a natural winding down in the evening. There are many physical, emotional and mental signs your body needs sleep. Any yawning, “tired eyes”, lethargy or aches in the lower extremities.
So especially during this time when your body needs to recover, look for the signs that it is time to sleep rather than taking on one more thing to do before going to bed. Small changes, like having an earlier, lighter dinner, and listening to your body when it's tired, will not only make you feel better in the short term, but help your overall recovery as well. And when you are back to better, EVERYTHING in your life will seems better.