Too many people are familiar with the routine of lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling or a nearby clock and wondering “How will I make it through tomorrow without any sleep?”
When you wake up in the morning, are you refreshed and ready to go, or groggy and grumpy? For many people, the second scenario is all too common. This article discusses how to get the sleep you need for optimal health, safety, and well-being.
Sleep is a basic biological necessity, just like eating. Sleep has an impact on every aspect of your health, life, and wellbeing. A good night’s sleep results in increased energy and productivity, improved immune system and heart health, a more positive mood and a longer life. While over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids may help you drift off at night, it’s important to note that sleep drugs do have side effects. These include an increased risk for falling and morning drowsiness, which can make certain activities (driving and operating machinery) more dangerous.
According to Marianne Legato of Columbia University, women tend to get less sleep than men do overall. Even if you don’t have children, levels of sleep-promoting estrogen sink during menstruation and permanently decrease in menopause. Symptoms related to both, including cramps, hot flashes, headaches, and night sweats also disrupt slumber. Fortunately, these biological facts do not have to hinder everyone.
We’d like to recommend a few other ways of achieving a good night’s sleep than medications. (Keep in mind that most adults require between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.) If you regularly have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep and it affects you throughout the day, we suggest the following tips:
Create a consistent sleep schedule.
Stick to a routine where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. On weekends you can vary your sleep routine slightly, but try to keep the difference to one hour or less. Staying up late and sleeping in on weekends may disrupt your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, resulting in the equivalent of jet lag.
Expose yourself to natural light.
If at all possible, spend time outside. Even on a cloudy day, this will help keep your body’s internal clock functioning correctly and help you’ll maintain your natural sleep-wake cycle. Expose yourself to natural sunlight for a minimum of 20 minutes in the morning. You can do this by opening curtains or sitting in front of a sunny window.
Make your bedroom a sleep-inducing space.
Your room should be quiet, dark, and cool—most people prefer a temperature between 60 and 72 degrees. Make sure that you have comfortable, supportive bed pillows and a quality mattress. If your room is not well ventilated, purchase a fan.
Eat properly before bedtime.
If you indulge in a large, rich, spicy, or fatty meal too close to bedtime, you risk interfering with your sleep cycle or giving yourself indigestion. If you are hungry after dinner, eat a light snack such as whole grain crackers and cheese, cereal with a glass of milk, a banana or a handful of almonds. A cup of chamomile tea (caffeine free) will also put you in the mood for bed.
Avoid stimulants throughout the day.
Caffeine can keep you up all night, therefore it’s best to avoid coffee, chocolate, tea, and soda four to six hours before bedtime. Nicotine and other chemicals found in cigarettes have the same effect, so avoid them before bed.
Playing sports or working out during the day can contribute to a great night’s sleep. Time your workout so you finish by late afternoon and allow your body the time it needs to recover—your heart rate, body temperature, and other functions will drop and set the stage for sound slumber. Yoga and simple stretching in the evening is fine, however. According to the National Sleep Foundation, individuals who exercise vigorously in the morning have the best sleep patterns, including better quality of sleep and a greater chance of waking up feeling refreshed.
If you still can’t sleep…
Don’t lie awake worrying or staring at the clock, get up, go to another room and read or engage yourself in another relaxing activity until the mood to sleep returns. Then head back to bed.
We hope these suggestions help! Browse our Article section for more health and wellness tips.