tips for better sleep

April 19,2021

Tips to get a good night’s sleep

How often do you feel sleepy during the week? A day? A couple of days? The whole week?  You are not alone.  The National Sleep Foundation found that 44% of US adults felt sleepy 2-4 days/week and 28% felt sleepy 5-7 days/week (National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll March 2020), often leading to headaches, irritability, and malaise.1  Not getting enough sleep could also have effects on memory, immune status, weight, and long-term health.    

 

Sleep is a critical component of a person’s overall health and well-being, enabling the body to repair and restore physically and mentally, and to be fit for the upcoming day.  A good night’s sleep improves concentration, performance, and productivity, and enhances the immune system.  Adults typically require 7-9 hours of sleep nightly, with some individual variation.  The amount of sleep needed is largely age dependent.  For example, children need more sleep to help their bodies grow and develop, and older adults, aged 65 and over, require less.   

 

The reality is a large group of American adults are not getting the sleep they need despite the expert recommendations.  Humans are the only mammal that willingly delay sleep!  Many people undervalue and deprioritize sleep for fitness and nutrition, work, and other interests.  Other factors also impact sleep, such as diet, alcohol and caffeine consumption, use of electronic devices, exercise, or even your bedroom environment.   

 

While it is important to get the recommended amount of sleep nightly, sleep quality – how well you sleep – is also critical to your health.  Some signs that you need to improve your sleep quality include feeling groggy, taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep after getting into bed, regularly waking up more than one time nightly or staying awake more than 20 minutes after waking up in the middle of the night.   

 

You can improve your sleep quality by developing good sleep hygiene.  Just like personal hygiene is a collection of habits to keep yourself healthy, sleep hygiene is a collection of habits that helps improve your sleep health by promoting consistent, uninterrupted sleep.  What you do during the day is just as important as how you prepare for sleep and how you maintain your bedroom.  Routine is the key to building any good habit, and it is just as important for sleep. 

 

Start by making sleep a priority and setting a schedule – be consistent both at night and in the morning – to help normalize sleep as part of your daily practice.  Develop a nightly routine to prepare for bed, focus on winding down 30 minutes before bed, creating a sense of relaxation, dimming the lights.  Unplug electronics 30-60 minutes before bedtime – electronic devices stimulate your mind and their screens give off blue light, which may decrease melatonin production (melatonin is a hormone the brain produces in response to darkness to help you feel tired and ready for sleep).   

 

Diet and exercise play a role during your daytime routine.  Have you ever heard the expression “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”?  To support healthy sleep, eat dinner early enough so you are not still digesting during bedtime and eat nothing heavy or spicy late at night.  Reduce caffeine by the afternoon as it is a stimulant, and moderate alcohol consumption, avoiding it later in the evening.  Even though it helps you fall asleep, it is disruptive later in the night as its effects wear off.  Be active as regular exercise makes it easier to sleep and get outside for fresh air and light.  Sunlight is a major driver of circadian rhythms that supports quality sleep.   

 

Create an optimal sleep environment.  Your bedroom is not your office, nor your playroom.  A calming, tranquil environment invites sleep.  Think about being “snug as a bug in a rug”.  Ensure your bed is comfortable – the mattress, bedding and pillows you choose all impact restfulness.  Block out noise and light to encourage sleep.  Set a comfortable, cool temperature – around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.   

 

Many individuals also turn to natural offerings to provide a sense of calm and relaxation in the evening and to help support a good night’s rest.  The scent of lavender has a calming effect and can be used as an essential oil or a living plant placed in the bedroom.  A cup of chamomile tea may be part of your evening routine to help wind down.  Natural sleep aids, like the sleep supplement melatonin, have also been shown to support a good night’s rest. 

 

To get the restorative sleep your body needs, it is important to make sleep a priority and follow good sleep hygiene.  Take a holistic approach with a consistent schedule, healthy daily habits, nighttime routine, an optimized bedroom environment and natural sleep aids as needed.   

References

  1. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/SIA-2020-Q1-Report.pdf
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