Can’t sleep? You’re not alone.
Lack of quality sleep is a universal issue, affecting 70 million Americans alone. Insomnia and not getting enough sleep rank highest on the list of sleepless woes.
Not only does lack of quality sleep leave us foggy and dysfunctional, it increases weight gain, causes memory issues, and lowers immune function. It also increases our risk of anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.
The good news? Better sleep quality is possible.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Improving sleep quality without medication is part of a growing frontier in health and wellness. Techniques to improve sleep, also called “sleep hygiene,” are listed below. Follow these tips to enjoy a better night’s rest..
1. Create the Mood
A relaxing bedroom environment helps you fall sleep faster and stay asleep longer. Minimize noise levels with double-paned windows, heavy curtains, and rugs. Bright nighttime lights decrease your body’s production of melatonin, so keep lights low, including the bathroom light.
Cooler temperatures promote better sleep and the ideal is 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18.33 degrees Celsius. Make sure your mattress and bedding are comfortable, and use your bed only for sleeping and sex. Keep your sleep sanctuary sacred, and take all other activities elsewhere.
2. Wind Down
At the end of each day, create comforting rituals that encourage your body to drift into dreamland. Listen to calming music, stretch gently, enjoy a warm bath, or read using a soft light. Helping your body wind down prepares you to welcome sleep.
3. Clear Your Mind
Are your thoughts and worries swirling incessantly and keeping you awake? Journaling can help. Keep a notebook near your bed, and jot down what’s on your mind before you turn in. The act of writing helps clear your thoughts and lets your subconscious mind know it’s ok to let them go. Make sure you write the “old fashioned” way using paper and pen. Light emissions from backlit electronic devices like cell phones, laptops, and tablets will keep you awake.
4. Sync Your Schedule
Follow a regular sleep schedule and strive for 7 ½ to 8 hours of sleep each night. Those with the most consistent sleep schedules enjoy the lowest amounts of insomnia and depression. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day keeps your circadian sleep/wake cycle synchronized.
Went to bed later than you planned? Avoid the temptation to sleep in and wake up at your normal time the next day to get things back on track.
5. Monitor Your Mouth
Consuming caffeine, tobacco, or alcohol too close to bedtime chases quality sleep away. Caffeine blocks adenosine, a brain chemical that aids sleep. Tobacco contains nicotine, a stimulant that speeds up heart rate and brainwave activity. And alcohol may help you fall asleep but your sleep will be restless and filled with snoring, breathing problems, and nightmares. It also causes chronic insomnia. Stay away from caffeine after 2 pm daily and the other two sleep thieves at least 2 hours before bed.
Sleeping well is a necessity for good health and success. Follow these medication-free tips to improve sleep naturally and enjoy a good night’s rest.
Source: Epstein MD, et al. (2015). Improving sleep: a guide to a good night’s rest. Harvard Health Publication. 16-22. ( http://www.health.harvard.edu )