7 Tips for getting better sleep

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Apply these seven tips to sleep more soundly..

Sleep deprivation has been labeled by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) a public epidemic. It affects approximately fifty to seventy million Americans, and has multiple negative consequences, some lethal.

With everyone seemingly working longer hours, facing constant stimulation by technology and having more around the clock communication with people globally in other time zones, there are many things to keep us awake.

Many, however, suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia that have less to do with being occupied by life's distractions and more to do with a simple difficulty sleeping.

If you find yourself struggling to get enough sleep, this article offers seven tips for improved "sleep hygiene" so that you can get a better night's rest.

1. Maintain a regular sleep and wake time daily

Even if you look forward to the weekends to sleep a bit later in the morning, forcing yourself to get up at the same time throughout the week can go a long way in establishing a more regular and beneficial sleep pattern. It may feel like you are causing even more sleep deprivation by shorting yourself those extra precious minutes of sleep, but it will prove to help you become a better sleeper in the long run.

2. Avoid caffeine later in the day

Caffeine is a stimulant and can make it extremely difficult to sleep. Enjoy your coffee in the morning but cut yourself off as early as the afternoon so that you will not be affected by it when bedtime rolls around.

3. Limit alcohol consumption

Even though it might feel like a drink or two will help you fall asleep, it actually disrupts your sleep in later stages as your body begins to metabolize the alcohol. This can lead to arousal and a lower quality of sleep in general.

4. Don't eat too much just before bed

A large meal right before bedtime is never a good idea.

Dietary changes might also lead to sleep disturbances. If you are not sure about whether your diet is causing you sleep problems, stop eating before bed and see if you notice a difference. You can also keep a food diary to notice any patterns. Some people, for example, complain that spicy food is related to sleep disturbance.

5. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine

To get yourself relaxed and ready to shut down, you can establish a calming bedtime routine that will send your body a message to begin winding down. Some examples of activities to include in your bedtime routine are enjoying a cup of herbal tea, reading a chapter of a good book, taking a bath or simply washing your face, or listening to some soothing music. Avoid difficult conversations or taking on any kind of complex projects right before bed so that you can avoid getting wound up. Your bedtime routine should help you wind down.

6. Exercise in the first part of the day

Unless it is a relaxing yoga routine, vigorous exercise should be restricted to the first part of the day if you struggle with sleep problems.

Exercise can energize and that is the last thing you need before bed. 

7. Use your bed for sleep only

With the exception of sex, sleeping should be the only activity that your bed is used for so that your bed and sleep will be associated with each other in your mind. As much as you may enjoy reading, watching television or speaking on the phone while relaxing in your bed, it is a good idea to restrict your bed for only sleep or sex.

If you are struggling with getting enough sleep, apply these sleep hygiene practices regularly for a few weeks and hopefully watch your sleep improve.

Sources

CDC Features: Data and Statistics: Insufficient Sleep is a Public Health Epidemic.

Institute of Medicine. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2006.

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