There are many things that can interfere with a good night’s sleep– stress from work, family responsibilities, financial woes, relationship issues, and illnesses. It comes as no surprise that a good night’s sleep eludes you from time to time. Fortunately you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep since it’s nearly impossible to control all of the factors that interfere with your sleep.
Here are 6 ways to achieve better sleep and feel more rested.
1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Try to make it a priority to go to bed at the same time every night and try to wake up at the same time every morning. Make sure that you stick to this schedule on holidays and the weekends because it’s reinforcing your body’s sleep-wake cycle. If you’re unable to fall asleep within 15-20 minutes, get up and try doing something relaxing. Avoid watching television or playing on your phone as those will only add to your restlessness. Try going to bed again once you’re tired. You’ll find that if you stick to a sleep schedule, it becomes easier to fall asleep and wake up the next day.
2. Bedtime Rituals
Do things before bed that tell your body it’s time to start winding down, whether those actions involve taking a warm bath while listening to soothing music or diving into a new book written by your favorite author. It’s best to do these activities with dimmed lights without distraction. Having such bedtime rituals help promote better sleep by easing your transition between being awake and getting tired.
The National Sleep Foundation’s annual Sleep in America poll explains that light exposure from televisions or smartphone devices hinder sleep because the light exposure disrupts body rhythms and suppresses the release of melatonin, which promotes sleep. Your before-bed ritual shouldn’t include devices that give off such light, but rather read a book or a magazine to unwind.
3. Watch what you Eat and Drink
It’s important to not go to bed hungry or too full because the discomfort associated with both might keep you up and prohibit good sleep. Minimize how much you drink before bed to decrease middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks. The stimulating effects of nicotine, alcohol or caffeine can take hours for you to work off and can wreck havoc on sleep. Although at times alcohol can help you become drowsy, it’ll mostly lead to restless sleep.
4. Get Comfortable
Create a room that is ideal for sleeping. One that is dark, cool and quiet. You can use room-darkening blinds to help eliminate excess light, earplugs to dull any sound and a fan to keep you cool while sleeping. Make sure that you have a comfortable mattress and change your pillows every 1-3 years. The frequency of this depends on the support life of the pillow and certain allergens the user has. It’s also important to find a pillow that matches your sleeping style.
Here are a few ways to determine the best pillow when considering your sleeping style.
- Back Sleepers: Doctors suggest that those that sleep on their back need thinner pillows to help make sure that their head is not thrown too far forward. Also look for a pillow that helps cradle your neck.
- Side Sleepers: Those that tend to sleep on their side need a firmer pillow to fill in the distance between the ear and shoulder.
- Stomach Sleepers: Those that sleep on their stomach should look for a thin and almost flat pillow. Some stomach sleepers prefer not to use a pillow for their head, but rather they use the pillow to tuck under their stomach to avoid lower back pain.
5. Avoid Naps
If you have trouble falling asleep, avoid taking a nap, especially in the afternoon. Although power napping can help get you through the day, it can sometimes lead to issues when trying to fall asleep. By cutting out this nap, your body is more likely to be ready to fall asleep quickly when the time comes.
6. Exercise Daily
Exercising daily can help ware your body to the point that when bedtime comes around not only is your body mentally tired but it’s also physically tired. Moderate to light exercise will contribute to better sleeping conditions, and the amount of time it will take you to fall asleep is decreased. Vigorous exercise before bed or within a few hours of your bedtime can actually make it harder to fall asleep. Many people have this misconception that exercise before bed helps you fall asleep, but that’s not the case. Exercise before bed can actually stimulate your heart, brain, and muscles as well as raising your body temperature. Morning exercise is best for those wanting to have a good nights rest. If you can work out outside, that’s even better because the natural light in the morning can help reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
By incorporating some of these tips into your routine, it’s possible to achieve better sleep. If you’re still having trouble sleeping, it’s important to understand that it’s ok to speak with your doctor. Use a sleep diary to record your sleeping patterns and your doctor may also recommend undergoing a sleep study to rule out other issues including, but not limited too, sleep apnea. Here are some great tips to creating and maintaining a sleep journal to track your sleeping patterns. The National Sleep Foundation has a pdf available here to help get you started on the road to a peaceful nights sleep.
For more tips on exercising to help bring on a good night’s sleep, check out our Get Fit Initiative.
Photo credits: Planet Chopstick, Blondinrikard Fröberg, Kārlis Dambrāns, The Art of Making a Baby, Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash
Sources: Webmd, US News, Sleep Foundation Organization