12 steps to a better night’s sleep

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12 steps to a better night’s sleep

The advice of “counting sheep” to fall asleep must not be very effective.  The National Sleep Foundation has found that 43% of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on weeknights.  Plus, more than half - 60% - say they experience a sleep problem almost every night.   Snoring, waking up during the night, waking up too early or feeling unrefreshed when they get up in the morning, we are not a well-rested nation.   

The inability to fall or stay asleep after crawling into bed affects all aspects of our lives.  How we feel and function during our waking hours usually depends on how well we slept during the night.  The number of hours slept is important but even more vital is the quality of our sleep. 

Try the following sleep solutions to find the ones that work best for you not only improving your sleep but helping you feel more productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and full of energy for the day.

1.     Have a bedtime routine – Going to bed and getting up the next morning at the same time helps set your body’s internal clock.  One way to tell if you’re getting enough sleep is if you wake up naturally without an alarm. 

2.      Avoid sleeping in even on the weekend – It’s better to opt for a daytime nap to catch up missed sleep than to try to make up for it sleeping in till mid-morning.  When our weekday and weekend sleep schedules differ, the worse you will feel. 

3.     Only nap if absolutely necessary – Taking an afternoon nap can be pleasant but keep it short – limit them to no more than 15 to 20 minutes early in the afternoon.  Napping frequently or longer will make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.

4.     Fight after meal drowsiness – Whether you find yourself wanting to nod off after lunch or dinner, don’t.  Get up and find a stimulating activity such as going for a walk, calling a friend, cleaning up the house of picking out your clothes for the next day.  Taking a siesta after a meal can make it harder to get to sleep later.

5.     Keep your blinds and curtains open during the day.  Having natural lighting throughout the house helps wake you up during the day helping regulating your sleep-wake cycle.

6.     Get outdoors during the day – Taking time to be in the sunshine by taking a walk or during a break at work stimulates you to be and stay awake.

7.     Avoid screen 1 – 2 hours before bedtime – Our electronic devices emit a blue light disruptive to getting to sleep.  Turning the brightness down can help or just have a rule to put them away a few hours before turning in.   Screen time also includes no late-night TV or reading from an e-reader. 

8.     Keep your bedroom as dark as possible – Block light by using heavy curtains or shades or use a sleep mask. 

9.     Limit caffeine and chocolate – Stop drinking or eating anything with caffeine or chocolate after 4 pm. 

10.  Avoid eating a big meal at night – Having an early dinnertime (5-6 pm) can help with your body’s circadian rhythm.  Eating a heavy, rich meal within 2 hours of bedtime can result in heartburn and stomach problems.

11.  Avoid alcohol before bed – It may be tempting to want a nightcap right before bed for relaxation but that often results in interfering with your sleep cycle.

12.  Avoid drinking too many liquids before bed – Within 2 or more hours before bedtime, reduce the amount of fluids you consume to prevent making frequent bathroom trips during the night.