WHEN TO EXERCISE:
- If possible, save your outdoor exercise for late morning or early afternoon. That's when muscles are more responsive and adrenaline levels higher, while the sunlight will delay fatigue until roughly six hours later, helping you effectively nod off when you should.
- Strenuous activity within three hours of bedtime can delay fatigue by stimulating the adrenal glands. Try to work out at the same time each day, and, even when your schedule is in flux, not too late in the evening.
- Three 40-minute cardio workouts a week in the afternoon make a good exercise foundation, but Youngstedt says sleep improves greatly if you can work out for an hour or more every day.
GETTING ENOUGH LIGHT:
- Slather on some sunscreen and soak up as much sun as you can in the afternoon and evening. A study by one of Youngstedt's colleagues found that the average adult gets less than 60 minutes of bright sunlight a day; Youngstedt advises that the minimum should be at least two times that.
- If you really can't get outside, spend a half-hour beneath a light box of 5,000 to 10,000 lux. Of course, finding a an occupation with a more flexible schedule might be a more tolerable option.
- Outdoor exercise is also a useful antidote to jet lag, and according to Youngstedt, timing is everything. If you travel west a few time zones, e.g. New York to Los Angeles, take a run outside each evening to help delay your internal clock (you'll fall asleep later) until it's in sync with L.A. time. If you go from New York to London, take your run outside in the mornings to fast-forward your internal clock.
GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE:
- All that exercise and sunshine won't help without what the doctors call good sleep hygiene:
- Your mattress should be firm and the bedroom should be dark, cool, and quiet: a place for sleep (well, OK, and sex) only. Keep stressand TVout.
- Go to bed at the same time each night; if you're tense at bedtime, practice deep breathing and contracting and releasing your muscles.
- To prevent middle-of-the-night bathroom trips, hydrate through the day, and ease off in the evening. And abstain from big nightcaps: One or two alcoholic drinks is okay, but any more will inhibit deep sleep.