5 Tips to Help You Get Better Sleep
Do you climb into bed each night, exhausted, only to toss and turn for hours before falling into a restless sleep? When you wake up in the morning, does it feel as if you haven’t slept at all?
In our always-on society, getting the amount and quality of sleep you need each day can be challenging. A 2008 survey by the CDC showed an estimated 70 percent of respondents reporting that they receive an insufficient amount of sleep at least once a month. A staggering 11 percent of the same survey respondents reported insufficient sleep every night.
Getting good sleep is essential to our everyday health and well-being, and can help maintain healthy weight, promote heart health, and stave off symptoms of dementia. But what can you do if sleep eludes you on a regular basis?
Here are 5 tips to help you get better sleep:
Stick to a Schedule
Our bodies are basically large machines. They get used to the same processes and procedures, and throwing off those processes can throw our whole systems out of whack.
So if you’re one of those people who just goes to bed when you’re tired, you could be contributing to your poor sleep.
Your body gets habituated to the routines you impose, whether they’re due to work or just biological necessity. Going to sleep at the same time and waking up at the same time, even on weekends, is one of those routines that you need to cultivate and get your body used to.
Start by going to bed at the same time every night, giving yourself a good 7 or 8 hours before you set your alarm. After a while, your body will become used to your routine and you’ll start to feel sleepy around your bedtime, making it easier for you to fall asleep.
Check Your Routine
Everyone should have a bedtime routine, and that routine should ideally be free of bright lights or screens (Yes, including your phone!).
Think of some things that are especially relaxing to you. Maybe that’s a bath, or some soft music, or reading a book. Incorporate one or two of these activities, as well as regular grooming habits such as brushing your teeth and washing your face, into the last hour or so before you go to bed.
If you must use a screened device, turn on the blue light filter. This helps to block out some of the type of light that can be most disruptive to your ability to fall asleep.
And if you think you’ll be tempted to reach for your phone and scroll through social media when you have even a little bit of difficulty falling asleep, consider leaving it somewhere across the room and inconvenient so it’s out of easy reach.
Evaluate Your Room
Sometimes, whether or not you can sleep and sleep well is a result of the environment in which you’re sleeping. Room temperature, ambient light, your pillow, and more factor into your ability to sleep.
First, take a look at the conditions surrounding your bed. Do you have lights shining in your face? Does light from outside shine through your window and wake you up at night? Is your room too hot or too noisy?
Do your best to adjust these conditions, such as moving night lights, installing room-darkening curtains, getting a noise machine, or turning on a fan. You’ll be surprised how much better you can sleep if you get rid of potential distractions.
Then, work on making your bed a more pleasant place to spend several hours a day. An uncomfortable mattress or too-flat pillow doesn’t make for restful sleep, especially if you have back or neck pain.
If you can’t afford to purchase a whole new mattress, look into getting a gel or memory foam mattress pad to put on top of your existing mattress to make it a little more comfortable. However, a good mattress is a huge investment in your health, wellness, and overall work productivity, so you may want to make this purchase a priority.
Get Some Exercise
The more you move, the more tired you’re likely to be at bedtime. This is especially important for those of us who sit at desks all day for work.
You don’t need to hit the gym super hard to reap the benefits; even 30 minutes of moderate extra activity, such as walking or swimming, can help you get better sleep.
Not only that, but exercise increases endorphins and helps protect you from other conditions that can impact your sleep, such as obesity, sleep apnea, and heart disease.
Try Bright Light Therapy
We spend a lot of our time indoors under unnatural light, especially in the colder winter months. This means our natural circadian rhythms aren’t always working well, which doesn’t bode well for good sleep.
Bright light therapy helps increase your body’s production of serotonin and endorphins, both of which help regulate your sleep. In winter, your body’s production of both these chemicals slows down, which can lead to sleep disruption. And if you experience insomnia or other sleep disruptions year-round, helping to “reset” your circadian rhythm can help.
Spending approximately 30 minutes per day, as soon after waking as possible, under a 10,000 lux light is the best way to get the benefits of bright light therapy.
As always, talk with your doctor before starting bright light therapy or any other sort of therapy.
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