Feeling sleepy? You’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on any given day as many as one in five adults suffers from an insufficient amount of sleep. Many people think the term “insomnia” refers to a complete lack of sleep. In truth, insomnia encompasses a host of sleep problems, including: difficulty falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, early morning awakening or non-restful sleep.
Insomnia affects all ages. As we age, sleep can become even more elusive, so developing good sleep habits when you’re younger can pay off later in life. Simple adjustments in lifestyle and routine can go a long way in helping you get the quality and quantity of sleep you need.
1. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. That includes weekends. Sleep is a habit that must be maintained for best results.
2. Sleep in one continuous block. So-called “fragmented sleep” causes daytime drowsiness, compromises learning, memory, productivity, and creativity. Six hours of continuous sleep are often more restorative than eight hours of fragmented sleep.
3. Make up for lost sleep as soon as possible. Catch up by going to bed earlier rather than sleeping later. If you sleep later, it will make it harder to get to sleep the following night at the usual hour. You can also repay your sleep debt by napping, just don’t nap for too long or too late in the day, or you’ll further disturb your sleep cycle. Don’t try to make up for large sleep losses during the week by sleeping in on the weekend. This is like trying to lose weight by doing all your exercising and dieting on only Saturdays and Sundays.
4. Avoid caffeine after 2:00 p.m. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours, which means that six hours after your last sip, half the caffeine is still in your body. This liquid stimulant can lead to a vicious cycle: After a poor night’s sleep, you have no choice but to rely on more caffeine to get you through the next day. Then, when it’s time to go to bed, your heart is racing, you can’t sleep, you wake up exhausted in the morning, and you reach for more caffeine.
5. Avoid alcohol three hours before bed. Alcohol may help you doze off, but it also causes you to wake up every 90 minutes, so throughout the night you’ll be continually shaken and stirred.
6. Exercise before 5:00 p.m. Avoid strenuous exercise within three hours of going to bed; exercise elevates core body temperature for five to six hours. In order to feel drowsy, body temperature needs to be dropping.
7. Turn off all screens at least an hour before bed. Electronic screens emit a blue light that disrupts your body’s production of melatonin and combats sleepiness. So instead of watching TV or spending time on your phone, tablet, or computer, choose another relaxing activity, such as reading a book or listening to soft music.
8. Cooler Temperatures. Becoming over heated is a common cause of sleeplessness. Set your bedroom temperature. Sleep can be disrupted by temperatures below 65 or above 75. The sweet spot for great sleep is between 68 and 72 degrees.
9. Melatonin and Other Natural Supplements. There are several natural supplements that can help relax the nervous system and assist sleep. The two most common are melatonin, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle, and the amino acid L-theanine that’s typically found in teas. Remember to drink caffeine-free teas.
10. Get a comfortable bed, mattress, and pillow. Some people wonder why they always sleep better in a hotel. Apart from the relaxing environment, bed quality can also affect sleep. One study looked at the benefits of a new mattress for 28 days, revealing it improved sleep quality by 60%. The best mattress and bedding are extremely subjective. It’s recommended that you upgrade your bedding at least every 5–8 years. If you haven’t replaced your mattress or bedding for several years, this can be a very quick fix.
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