Getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging, if not downright impossible, for many individuals. Nearly a third of Americans say they struggle with being able to fall asleep a few nights per week. Sleep deprivation has been linked to several health complications including high blood pressure, obesity, poor concentration and a pervasive lack of energy to name a few. Good health and a better quality of life begins with a good night’s sleep so let’s look at a few ways to help get you that quality rest your body requires.
While you may not be able to control all the factors keeping you from a full night’s sleep, adopting healthy sleep habits will ensure you are giving your body the best possible environment for achieving a restorative night’s sleep. The number one recommended healthy sleep tip is to establish a consistent schedule. It is so tempting to stay up late and then sleep in on your days off, but that actually disrupts your sleep-wake cycle, making it even harder to fall asleep when you need to. Along with a consistent schedule, it also helps to establish a bedtime ritual to signal to your body that it is time for sleep. Whether it’s taking a warm shower, reading a book or doing some relaxing yoga every night before bed, it will help ease the transition into sleep. The one caveat to this however, is to avoid using the TV or other electronic devices as part of your nightly ritual. There has been considerable research done that suggests the lights from the screen can actually stimulate your brain making it even harder to nod off.
What you eat and drink, especially close to bedtime, can be directly related to how well you sleep at night. Eating too much as well as eating too little, can disrupt your sleep. It is recommended that you finish dinner at least four hours before bedtime to eliminate reflux, heartburn or other sleep depriving symptoms. The converse is true as well, if you eat too little for dinner and go to bed on an empty stomach, you could have a problem getting to sleep and staying asleep; a small, healthy snack before bedtime can help you nod off more quickly. Indulging in nicotine, caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime can wreak havoc on your sleep quality as well. Even though alcohol can help you fall asleep, as it is metabolized in your system it can wake you up not too long later.
Stress is another trigger that causes insomnia. Finding ways to manage your stress levels can help alleviate insomnia. Creating a peaceful and comfortable sleep environment can help; cool, dark and quiet are ideal sleeping conditions. Physical activity throughout the day not only helps you manage stress, it also promotes better sleep at night. Work tends to be a major source of stress for many individuals, so a couple hours before bed, put away the computer and iPad and leave any emails and other work items for the next day. It will help to calm your mind and let your body wind down so you can fall asleep easier and faster.
If these strategies don’t help, and you still find yourself plagued with insomnia or just feel as if you are never rested properly, it could be a sign of another underlying condition. A visit to a sleep doctor might be in order. They can help you accurately diagnose the source of your symptoms, and a sleep study can determine if you have an undiagnosed sleep disorder that is preventing you from a good night’s sleep.