By Virginia Gurley, MD, MPH

MB (Marc Braman, MD, MPH):
This session’s topic is “Simple Daytime Tips For Best Sleep at Night”. And welcome back Dr. Gurley.

VG (Virginia Gurley, MD, MPH):
Thank you, Dr. Braman.

So we tend to organize our life into portions of the day: morning, midday, get home from work, evening, bed time, etc. So let’s just walk through a day and look at what the science shows is going to help us get the best sleep at night. So starting in the morning, what can we do?

Sure. Most people don’t realize what they do in the morning affects the quality of their sleep at night, but it really does. The two greatest tips are making sure you eat a solid breakfast and getting good morning sunlight. And for both of these to be most effective, you should do both within 30-60 minutes of your ideal wake-up time.

Okay, good. Any other tips for the morning?

Well if you’re lucky and sleep in a bedroom with windows facing east, the light at dawn can improve how refreshed you feel when you wake up in the morning. But if your bedroom doesn’t have windows to the east, dawn simulating alarm clocks have been shown to improve the body’s shift from sleep to being awake.

Excellent. I know I would certainly enjoy using one of those myself. So what about midday tips to improve our sleep at night?

Well similar to the morning, eating a real meal for lunch can make a big difference in your sleep quality. This is mostly because then you don’t have to eat as much for dinner, and large dinners can make it harder to get to sleep.

So put the fuel in when we’re going to want to burn it, not when we’re going to want to shut down the metabolism. Anything else for midday?

Yeah, midday is a great time to drink plenty of caffeine-free fluids. Getting plenty of fluids during the day helps the body temperature changes that help maintain high quality sleep through the night.

So it sounds like that’s touching on some of what we’ve talked about in the past with body temperature things, that sounds great. What about exercising or getting outdoors in the middle of the day?

Getting outside midday is great from about late fall through early spring, and getting exercise at that time is even better.

The sunlight, even if it’s cloudy, helps reset the clocks in the body that control sleep. Between late spring and early fall however, the amount of damaging ultraviolet radiation in the sunlight makes it better to limit your time in the morning to before 10:00am or in the afternoon after 3:00pm.

Very good. And that’s basically for us in the United States and not at some of the extreme portions of the planet. Any sleep quality tips for early evening? We get home from work and what can we do?

Effects of artificial dawn on sleep inertia, skin temperature, and the awakening cortisol response. Van De Werken M, Gimenez MC, De Vries B, et al. J. Sleep Res. 2010;119, 425-435. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2010.00828.x.

Healthy clocks, healthy body, healthy mind. Reddy AB, ONeill JS. Trends in Cell Biology. 2009; Vol.20 No.1. doi:10.1016/j.tcb.2009.10.005.

Dynamic interactions between musical, cardiovascular and cerebral rhythms in humans. Bernardi L, Porta C, Casucci G, Balsamo R, et al. Circulation. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2009. 119;3171-3180, doi:10.1161/CirculationAHA.108.806174.

Virginia Gurley, MD, MPH

Dr. Gurley is Founder and President of AuraViva, a health education organization dedicated to increasing accessibility and efficacy of healthy lifestyle strategies. She has over 25 years experience designing and implementing health promotion and disease prevention programs and has served 15 years in physician executive positions. She is faculty at the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and member of American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

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