So now that you know why you need to get plenty of sleep (after reading my article: 8 Reasons Why You Need to Get More Sleep), here are 5 Ways to Improve Your Sleep.
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Yes, getting a good night’s rest can be difficult, but there are definitely ways you can make it easier to accomplish. And while getting the rest you need may require some lifestyle changes, it’s important to develop habits that promote good health and eliminate those that keep you up at night so that you’ll be able to get those much needed 7-8 hours for years to come – even if you do have little ones who will throw a wrench in it every now and again. J
1) Create a Sleep Routine
Having a consistent sleep schedule is just as important for us adults as it is for our littles. According to the Mayo Clinic, frequently changing the times you go to bed and wake up confuses your body's biological clock. Although not always feasible, following a regular schedule, even on weekends and holidays, can help you get the rest you need.
To stick to this schedule, start by developing a relaxing bedtime routine that begins around the same time each evening. This will help prepare your mind and body for sleep. For example, take a warm bath, listen to soothing music, read a book, or do other activities that help you wind down. This will send a signal to your body that bedtime is coming, helping you to relax and fall asleep more easily.
2) Dim the Blue-Light [Electronic Devices]
Keeping electronics out of your bed really is crucial to help you get a good night sleep. It’s been well studied that the blue light from glowing electronic screens suppresses your body’s production of melatonin (an important hormone for sleep), making it harder to fall asleep at night. Furthermore, having your email, texts, etc. so easily accessible make it more difficult for you to “turn off your day”, which can cause extra stress, tension and/or stimulation, again, making it harder to fall asleep.
3) Creating a Relaxing Sleep Environment
Think about the moments that you have had your most restful nights’ sleep. What did these rooms look like? Is that similar to your current bedroom? If not, change it! Setting the scene really will help you get “into the mood” for sleep. Light, sound, and temperature are some of the most common causes of sleep disruption, so try and fix these first. Go for as quiet, dark, and cool as is comfortable for you. Your mattress and pillow can also play a major role – neck or back pain anyone? – so deal with these next.
Also avoid watching TV, using your computer, or checking your phone in bed. You shouldn’t be working, eating, or even having a heated discussion with your significant other in your sleeping environment either. The association between your bed and sleep needs to be strong, and all of these other “things” will help cloud that.
4) Hold the Alcohol – and Caffeine
While we all know that drinking caffeine right before bed can keep us up for hours, did you know that even if you have some mid-afternoon it can still effect how easy – or hard – it is to fall asleep. In fact, the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School says that the effects of caffeine can take six to eight hours to wear off. For me, I can’t drink any caffeine after 4pm, or I’ll have a horrendous time catching any shut-eye.
Alcohol is another beverage that may be hindering your sleep. While many believe it helps make them more tired (since it is a sedative), it does disrupt the quality of your sleep. This can result in lighter and less restorative stages of sleep, causing you to feel groggy the next morning. For this reason, try to avoid drinking alcohol within three hours of going to bed and limit yourself to one or two alcoholic beverages per day.
Furthermore, drinking too much of any liquid before bed may lead to bathroom trips during the night, which of course will also disrupt your sleep. Tea can be a nice calming agent though, so if you need to sip on something, have a little calming tea, such as Chamomile, to help you wind down.
5) Try, Try Again
Not every night is the same and even with these tips, falling asleep may seem challenging at times. Forcing yourself to sleep rarely works though and will probably cause you to be even more stressed out. So, if you’re still lying awake after 15 minutes of trying to fall asleep, get out of bed and do something else for a while. Maybe try going through part of your bedtime relaxation routine again. Or try something different, like listening to a sleep app. I originally had downloaded one for my daughter when she was still an infant and sleeping in my room, but now I can’t sleep well without it (and she is 2 ½)!
But remember, no matter how tempted you are, don’t check your phone (or turn on the TV, get on your computer, etc.). Try not to expose yourself to bright light, extreme temperatures, or loud sounds either. These stimulating activities will only make it harder for you to get into your sleep mode and will just snowball into an even more restless night.
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Feeling tired yet? It is Friday after all (if you’re reading this as part of my weekly Newsletter)!
I know getting sleep is not always easy – trust me, with two kids that don’t like sleeping much, I know – but it truly is one of the most important things you can do for your body. And your sanity! So go home (after work of course) and get some shut-eye!
Now stay tuned for next week’s Newsletter where I continue to help you make healthy living a lifestyle! And if you missed last week’s Tip (about sneaking in more exercise), CONTACT US for the Newsletter, or check out the article on our BLOG.