7 Easy Steps to Better Sleep
When was the last time you had a good night's sleep? A few simple lifestyle changes can help you get more rest. Here are seven easy steps to better sleep.
How Do You Sleep?
When was the last time you had a good night's rest? Last night? Last year?
Many things can keep you awake at night: your kids, work deadlines, relationship problems, financial worries, social activities, body aches, environmental noise, too much caffeine, and more.
The National Sleep Foundation says the average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Most people get much less than they need.
When distractions keep you awake, or you postpone sleep to keep up with a 24/7 world, you pay the price with your health, safety, and quality of life. Sleep deprivation increases your risk of car accidents, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, psychiatric conditions, learning disabilities, and memory problems.
To enjoy a longer and more restful sleep, the experts suggest a few simple sleep techniques. Here are seven easy steps to better sleep.
1. Keep a Sleep Schedule
Keeping a sleep schedule is the first step to better sleep.
Go to bed at the same time each night, even on weekends and holidays. Wake up at the same time each morning, even if you want to sleep longer. Consistency reinforces your body's natural sleep-wake cycle so you can get a good night's rest.
The Mayo Clinic mentions one caveat to this tip. If you can't fall asleep within fifteen minutes of hitting the pillow, get out of bed and do something relaxing. Agonizing over your inability to sleep will make it harder to nod off.
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2. Follow a Bedtime Routine
Bedtime rituals are another easy step to better sleep.
Do the same thing each night before bed to remind your body it's time to wind down. Relaxing activities are best. Take a warm bath, read a book, dim the lights, or listen to soft music to ease your transition into sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, people increase their risk for insomnia when they engage in stimulating activities before bed. These include watching television, surfing the Internet, and finishing household chores. Avoid these actions before bedtime for better sleep.
3. Avoid Late Night Caffeine
Caffeine wreaks havoc with your sleep, and nicotine does the same. Their stimulating effects will keep you awake for hours.
To sleep better, avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol at night. While alcohol makes you drowsy at first, it will eventually disrupt your rest.
Avoid late night meals as well, but don't go to bed hungry. Hunger and discomfort will keep you awake.
And don't drink too many beverages before bedtime to avoid midnight trips to the bathroom.
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4. Create a Sleep Haven
Create a haven for restful sleep.
Your bedroom should be dark, cool, and quiet. Use dark window shades, table or ceiling fans, earplugs, sleep masks, and other devices to create a comfortable sleep environment.
Make sure your mattress and sleep pillows encourage rest, too. Good bedding is subjective, so choose what works for you. If you share your bed, make it comfortable for two people. Set time limits for pets and children who like to jump into your bed at night.
5. Limit Daytime Naps
Short power naps during the day offer many health benefits, but long naps can interfere with your nighttime sleep.
If you must nap during the day, a mid-afternoon nap is your best option. Avoid sleeping during the day if you struggle with insomnia at night.
Of course, daytime sleep is an exception for people who work at night. If you work the graveyard shift, keep your bedroom dark. Sunlight, which adjusts your biological clock, will interrupt your sleep and keep you from getting some much-needed rest.
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6. Manage Your Stress
Stress management is an important step to better sleep. Too much to do, say, or think about can interfere with your sleep quality.
To restore peace and balance to your life, use healthy stress management techniques. Organize your day, set priorities, and delegate tasks. Love more, laugh more, and take a break when you need one.
Before you go to bed, write down your thoughts and set them aside for the morning.
7. Get Regular Exercise
Too much exercise before bedtime can energize you too much for sleep. When done earlier in the day, however, it can greatly improve your sleep.
Regular physical activity will help you fall asleep faster, and you'll enjoy a deeper, sounder sleep. Make your workouts fun, and you'll stick to them.
Don't hesitate to get your family involved. A walk around the block is good exercise and a great way to spend time together. A bicycle ride is another good choice for family fun. Everyone will feel better and sleep better, too.
Sleep: Your Health Barometer
Sleep is a barometer of your overall health, says the National Sleep Foundation. By following these seven steps to better sleep, you can improve your physical health and mental well-being. You'll wake up feeling rested, refreshed and ready to start the day.
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Reference Sources / Further Reading
- Bonnet, Michael H. and others. (n.d.) "How Much Sleep do Adults Need?" National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved August 7, 2012.
- Foltz-Gray, Dorothy. (June 29, 2012) "Sleep Like a Baby at Any Age." LifeScript. Retrieved August 7, 2012.
- Harvard Medical School. (2008) "Healthy Sleep." Harvard Medical School: Division of Sleep Medicine. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
- Mayo Clinic staff. (July 7, 2011) "Sleep Tips: 7 Steps to Better Sleep." Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved August 7, 2012.
Medical Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is not intended as medical advice, nor is it a substitute for treatment or diagnosis by a qualified health care professional.
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