Getting a good night’s sleep can be tough at any stage in your life. In fact, it has been estimated that 90 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder at one time or another. But the good news is that you can learn how to sleep better at any age, and any stage in your life.
Those of us who are free of medical disorders are still susceptible to poor sleep habits. And not getting enough sleep can do more than leave us irritable, it can take it’s toll on us in other ways; poor concentration, emotional dysfunction and diminished physical performance.
If you’re having difficulty capturing a full night of rest, try these simple tips to cultivate better sleep habits so you can be more productive, happier and healthier.
Sleep Better By Following These 8 Steps
1. Sleep in a dark room
Melatonin is a natural hormone your body releases to help regulate your 24-hour cycle of wakefulness and sleep. Unlike other familiar hormones like seratonin, which can be produced at any time, melatonin is only produced at night, and the darkness of your room will affect its production.
Make sure you’re getting the right amount of melatonin by completely shading any windows, and removing any light-emitting electronic devices like your TV or laptop.
2. Don’t eat a large meal before bed
Although eating a large meal will often leave you feeling lethargic, that doesn’t mean it’s going to lead to proper sleep. After consuming a large meal your digestion kicks into high gear, which can prevent you from reaching the deep stages of sleep needed for a restful night.
3. Skip the Alcohol
While drinking a glass of wine may help you fall asleep, a few hours after imbibing your body will be stimulated as the alcohol leaves your bloodstream.
If you are going to have a drink at night, finish it at least a few hours hitting the sheets.
4. Avoid stimulants
Antidepressants, Ritalin, Straterra and even caffeine are all stimulants that can shorten the REM stage of sleep, which is the deepest sleep level. If you want to sleep through the night, these should be the first thing you cut from your nightly or even afternoon routine.
5. Turn off the television and other electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime
Falling asleep with the TV on is bad for two reasons; first, the stimulation from it will make it harder to fall asleep, and stay asleep. Second, the light produced from the TV may effect melatonin production.
Do yourself a favor and turn off your TV, iPad and other electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime to ease your brain into a state of restfulness.
6. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine
Resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, and mind-body workouts like yoga can all improve not just your overall health and fitness, but if you’re working out hard enough will have you falling asleep soundly shortly after your head hits the pillow. Just be careful not to exercise late in the evening, otherwise it may be harder to fall asleep.
7. Use your vacation time
Fatigue builds over time, so make sure you’re taking at least a couple vacations each year.
Happy workers are more productive than stressed and fatigued workers, so don’t be shy about using your allotted paid time off in full, especially if it doesn’t roll over to the next year.
8. Take naps
Napping can actually help you sleep better at night. Just make sure to keep it short; a five to fifteen minute nap should be good enough to boost your energy without making it harder to get a full night’s sleep.
Avoid napping too late in the day, otherwise you may not be tired enough to get to sleep on time when you need to.
Dr. Moshe Lewis is the head of Alternative Health and Pain Management at St Lukes Hospital in San Francisco, CA, and co-host of Late Night Health, a wellness oriented radio talk show.
Featured photo by Mike Monaghan
Originally published 8/3/12 and updated by the Inspiyr team 7/22/13.