Tips for Better Sleep
The sleep set is literally the foundation of your sleep. But beyond your investment in the mattress, it's important to make an overall commitment to sleep. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy sleep cycle and ensuring the best night's rest:
1. Maintain a regular sleep and wake schedule, even on weekends.
Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by a "clock" in our brain and the body's need to balance both sleep time and wake time. A regular waking time in the morning strengthens the "clocks" function and can help with sleep at night. That is also why it is important to keep a regular sleep and wake-time, even on the weekends when there is the temptation to sleep-in.
2. Start a relaxing bedtime routine, such as a hot bath and reading a book or listening to soothing music.
A relaxing bedtime routine conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from waking activities that can cause excitement or stress and can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep. Avoid activities before bedtime like working, paying bills, engaging in competitive games or family problem-solving. Studies suggest that soaking in a hot bath before going to bed can ease the transition into deeper sleep, but it should be done early enough that you are no longer sweating or over-heated. If you are unable to avoid stress, it may be helpful to learn relaxation therapy from a trained professional. Finally, avoid exposure to bright light before bedtime because it signals the neurons that help control the sleep-wake cycle that it is time to awaken, not to sleep.
3. Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
Design your sleep sancturary to establish the conditions you need for sleep – cool, quiet, dark, comfortable and free of interruptions. Also make your bedroom reflective of the value you place on sleep. Check your room for noise or other distractions, including a bed partner's sleep disruptions such as snoring, light, and a dry or hot environment. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise," humidifiers, fans and other devices.
4. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow.
Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 5 or 7 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up during the night.
5. Use your bedroom only for sleep and rest.
It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and rest to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine. For example, if looking at a bedroom clock makes you anxious about how much time you have before you must get up, move the clock out of sight. Do not engage in activities that cause you stress and prevent you from sleeping.
6. Finish eating at least two to three hours before your regular bedtime.
Eating or drinking too much may make you less comfortable when going bed. It is best to avoid eating a meal too close to bedtime. Also, avoid foods that may cause heartburn, which leads to difficulty falling asleep and discomfort during the night. Restrict fluids close to bedtime to prevent nighttime awakenings to go to the bathroom, though some people find milk or herbal, non-caffeinated teas to be soothing and a helpful part of a bedtime routine.
7. Exercise regularly. Complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.
In general, exercising regularly makes it easier to fall asleep and contributes to sounder sleep. However, exercising sporadically or right before going to bed will make falling asleep more difficult. In addition to making us more alert, our body temperature rises during exercise, and takes as much as 6 hours to begin to drop. A cooler body temperature is associated with sleep onset. Finish your exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime. Late afternoon exercise is the perfect way to help you fall asleep at night.
8. Avoid alcohol, nicotine (e.g., cigarettes, tobacco products), and caffeine (e.g., coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) close to bedtime. These can lead to poor sleep, keep you awake or disrupt sleep later in the night.
Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it can produce an alerting effect. Caffeine products, such as coffee, tea, colas and chocolate, remain in the body on average from 3 to 5 hours, but they can affect some people up to 12 hours later. Even if you do not think caffeine affects you, it may be disrupting and changing the quality of your sleep. Avoiding caffeine within 6-8 hours of going to bed can help improve sleep quality. Nicotine is also a stimulant. Smoking before bed makes it more difficult to fall asleep. When smokers go to sleep, they experience withdrawal symptoms from nicotine, which also cause sleep problems. Nicotine can cause difficulty falling asleep, problems waking in the morning, and may also cause nightmares. Difficulty sleeping is just one more reason to quit smoking. And never smoke in bed or when sleepy!
For more information
For more information, visit the websites of National Sleep Foundation and the Better Sleep Council.