- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Ways To A Better Night's Sleep
If you find yourself not getting enough sleep to fulfill your daily functions and you are tired and irritable all the time, you may be suffering from insomnia. There are different types of insomnia: difficulty falling asleep, awakening during the night and awakening too early. Any of these problems can cause you to be tense and irritable, develop headaches, diabetes, depression and/or anxiety and even obesity. A typical insomniac takes 30 minutes or more to fall asleep and gets less than 6 hours of sleep a night.
Statistics show that more than 30 percent of the American population suffer from insomnia, approximately 10 million people in the US use some type of prescription sleep aids and 60 percent have driven while feeling sleepy.
How much sleep is enough?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, there is no magic number when it comes to sleep need, although the article does suggest that the average adult needs around 7 to 8 hours sleep for optimal performance and a school-age child 10 to 11 hours. Some people can function well on 7 hours sleep, while someone else may need 8 or 9 hours. The article also speaks of sleep debt, which is the total amount of sleep lost due to environmental factors, sickness and the like.
How to get a good night's sleep
You can tell when you have not had a good night's sleep. You are moody, irritable, lack concentration and may head for the coffee machine a little too frequently. This, of course, only exacerbates the problem. An occasional night of poor sleep will not hurt - remember the sleep debt mentioned above? - but if you find that your sleep deprivation is becoming chronic, you should speak to your doctor or a sleep specialist. Meanwhile, here are some other steps you can take:
1. Create a "wind-down" routine. Enjoy a nice, warm bath or shower, listen to your favorite music, or read a book. Avoid watching the news or movies that over stimulate you. You should start your wind-down routine at least one hour before your bedtime. If you want to shoot for 8 hours sleep and have to be up by 6.00 then you should start at 9.00 so you are asleep by 10.00.
2. Have a regular sleep/wake schedule, even on weekends. This way you don't disrupt your circadian rhythm.
3. Try to get at least a half hour of sunlight a day. The perfect way to do this is by walking. You not only get the benefit of the sunlight, but of the exercise as well. If you cannot get sunlight because of where you live or the time of year, you may want to invest in an artificial light that simulates sunshine.
4. Watch your food intake. I came across a saying once that goes like this: Eat like a king at breakfast and a pauper at night. This holds true for those of us trying to break the insomnia pattern. Retiring to bed on a heavy stomach causes your digestive system to be active when you are trying to sleep. This may also lead to heartburn and indigestion. So try eating your last meal at least two hours before bedtime. Cut down on coffee, carbonated drinks, sugar and alcohol, especially before bedtime. Some foods help release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that induces sleep. Foods such as bread, eggs, cheese and warm milk contain tryptophan which helps in the synthesis of serotonin.
5. Prepare your room for sleep. Have it cool (a sleep specialist suggested 70 degrees), quiet and dark. And, of course, a comfortable bed also helps. Remove the computer and bedside clocks with lights, especially blinking lights. All of these can interfere with your biological clock, telling it it's time to wake up. Turn off the TV. A friend of mine swears she can only sleep with the TV on. But she doesn't suffer from insomnia, so this advice is not for her. Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
6. Exercise regularly.
7. Most of all, make a commitment to getting the amount of sleep you need.
If implementing the above does not work, talk to your doctor before you reach for that bottle of sleeping pills. They may give you the amount of sleep you need, but some of them leave you with a hangover feeling and may have dangerous side effects over time.
- What are the best ways to help you fall asleep, stay asleep and get better sleep quality?
Relaxation is the key to falling asleep. So the best answer to this question is to find ways to relax before bedtime. It also pays to have a cool and comfortable bedroom to sleep in. There are many ways to accomplish these goals.
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