It may seem like a no-brainer, but 2020 is probably the year that many of us looked at how we are dealing with our health through a magnifying lens. The Novel Coronavirus pandemic is currently raging around the world, and many of us (including myself) are dealing with the anxieties of coming to grips with social-distancing, working from home, or not. Some of us are still riding crowded trains and packed buses, and all of us are suddenly questioning every pang of pain and sudden sniffle in our bodies. All of that new stress, and right on top of the regular tensions of day to day life in Japan, makes it imperative that despite what’s keeping us up at night, we try our best to get a decent amount of sleep so we can remain focused, alert and above all, healthy.
One way to side-step some anxiety is to tune out of the news cycle. Easier said than done perhaps, but very necessary to make sure you’re not thinking about it later. Three hours before bedtime, make a note of not looking at the news, chatting with friends about “the situation,” and zone out with a leisure activity; exercise, games, books, light TV, and so on.
Speaking of exercise, it’s a great way to deplete extra energy so you can sleep soundly during the night. Especially if you spend your days at work doing more sedentary tasks at a desk, it’s essential to stretch and move your muscles. Little things like taking the stairs, walking the long way from the train station, or setting a timer to remind you to stand up and move around a bit every hour makes a big difference. Hit the gym twice a week for an hour, take a 30-minute walk around your neighborhood every other day. You will notice how quickly and deeply you fall asleep, how you wake up refreshed, and, perhaps most surprisingly, how much less back and shoulder pain and headaches you suffer.
Making sure to not only eat healthier but also at the proper time will ensure a good night’s sleep. In my case, this meant making sure to eat breakfast! Eating a small bowl of cereal and a little fruit to go along with towards helping you feel more energetic and productive. Keep lunchtime light; maybe a salad with fish, chicken, or eggs on the side as an example, and you can knock down the Afternoon Sleep Monster. Dinner can be whatever, but the most critical part is the when; never eat later than three hours before your intended bedtime if you can help it, as digesting the meal happens in the 2 hours after eating and will disturb your sleep.
The most helpful advice of all (for me anyway) is to remove all electronic devices and anything that will make my mind work from my sleeping space. I charge my phone way across the room, use the “bedtime” function on it to kill all alerts in the hour before I hit the hay. I also dim the lights a bit and avoid blue light from screens after dinner; this can be accomplished with a setting on smart devices, or just by turning off the TV and listening to music, maybe reading a book if you want to get completely offline. Taking a warm shower right about this time usually does the trick for me. Most important here: set your shuteye time and stick to it!
One other thing: having a comfortable bed and pillow is paramount. I recently found that the once comfortable mattress I had been snoozing on for years had become too soft and bendy in all the wrong places, and wound up getting a simple firm-yet-supple memory foam mattress in its place. The new bed sends me off to lullaby land quickly, and I wake up with nothing in the way of back and neck aches. I also found that I don’t need much of a pillow aside from a thin one under my neck. Again, test and try the right kind of bedding for you because there is no one-size-fits-all setup.