We’ve all heard about the importance of a good night’s sleep. But we also know that it is not always easy to come by. Some of you reading this might be thinking, “What’s that again? It’s been so long since I’ve slept well.” And that’s not surprising because many stroke survivors have trouble getting the rest they need. Maybe you have difficulty falling asleep, experience fragmented sleep, or get up before the birds do. Whatever your sleep problem might look like, you’re not alone. And since getting good sleep can improve your recovery and reduce the risk of a second stroke, we decided to give you some tips to help. We did some research, and here’s what we came up with.
Establish a regular pattern
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. This way you create stability in your natural clock. You can even set yourself a reminder on your phone that lets you know when it’s time to go to bed and, of course, an alarm to get you up and going. The more you stick to your schedule, the more your body will adjust.
No coffee after 12 pm
Although drinking one or two cups of coffee a day can have beneficial effects, you should avoid drinking it after 12 pm. This way your brain and body can get some rest in the evening. The caffeine in coffee activates your system which can make it hard to settle down in the evening. When afternoon comes around, choose beverages without caffeine like decaf coffee, herbal tea, or good old-fashioned water. You’ll start to notice a difference come bedtime when it’s easier for you to find rest.
We should never underestimate the importance of moving! Research shows that a combination of aerobic and strength exercises can improve your sleep quality. Physical activity improves the body’s natural rhythms and can help you to sleep longer and more deeply. It can also reduce stress and get you physically tired, which means better sleep for you! So get your walking shoes on and get moving!
Limit your exercise in the evening
Yes, exercise can improve your sleep, but not if you do it before going to bed. Since it activates your system, make sure you train in the morning or afternoon to see positive effects on your sleep. Exercising too late will make it difficult to go to sleep because your mind and body are then fully awake and need some time to wind down.
Quiet your mind before going to sleep
You need time to relax before heading to bed. That means, no hard work in the evening. Before going to sleep, do something relaxing to release your stress from the day and clear your thoughts. Give the brain a chance to become quiet and get tired.
Change the lighting in the evening
Bright lights activate your brain and nervous system, so make sure you dim the lights or use special evening lights. Making everything a little darker will signal to your body and mind that it’s time to slow down.
We also need to talk about your electronic devices here. The light generated by these devices suppresses the production of the hormone that regulates your sleep and wake cycles. You can choose a night time setting now on most laptops, tablets, and smartphones which is a special setting that changes the light to a warmer tone for the evening. And if possible, it’s best to stop using any electronic device at least a half hour before going to bed.
Use the light in the morning
Once you’ve set your sleep pattern, you can help your body wake up a little more naturally by using a wake-up light. There are alarm clocks available with lights that simulate sunrise. They gradually expose you to light 30 minutes before the alarm goes off, which makes getting up a little easier. Research shows that using lights to stimulate your nervous system in the morning can help reset your internal clock, helping you feel more awake in the morning and sleepier in the evening.
Try some of these tips out for yourself, and let us know which ones worked for you. Or if you have any other tricks that have helped you, please share with us. We would love to pass them on to other stroke survivors. Wishing you a good night’s sleep!