Extended Summary: The inability to enjoy a good night’s sleep is a problem a significant number of Americans are familiar with. It’s a problem because failure to get adequate sleep can cause impediments at work and interfere with good health. Fortunately, it’s also a problem that can be remedied with the application of good habits, some discipline, an improved sleeping environment, and some training of the mind and body. This article is designed to help those that do not want to turn to sleeping pills or other aids found at the pharmacy.
- Don’t exercise if you are three hours away from bedtime. Exercise might seem like a good way to tire yourself, but it can have the opposite result once you are under the covers. Save your exercises for the morning or late afternoon and try to devote a total of thirty minutes each day to exercise. By developing a daily exercise routine, you should find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep, as well as strengthen the general health of your body.
- Alcohol and beverages with caffeine should be off limits once you are three hours away from bedtime. For some people, it may help to stop caffeine intake six hours before they expect to go to sleep. Alcohol will likely result in repeated awakenings throughout the night and caffeine will increase the likelihood of a delay in falling asleep. Any drink, even water, should be off the menu leading up to bedtime because liquids may end up equaling bathroom trips throughout the night.
- Taking naps can interfere with your ability to fall asleep easily at night and remain asleep. Naps should be avoided if you are a person that does take naps and then finds it hard to get adequate sleep at night. If taking a nap is unavoidable, then restrict the nap to thirty minutes and take it before late afternoon arrives. If you are the type of person that can nap and sleep fine at night, then don’t stop taking naps. Short naps can rejuvenate the mind and body and help you to be more alert. Also, recent studies have suggested that taking one or two short naps a day can potentially improve cardiovascular health and reduce stress on the heart muscles.
- Try not to go to bed on an empty stomach. You also don’t want to go to bed on a full stomach. You want at least a two hour window that separates a large, heavy meal and bedtime. Stay far away from dinner dishes that are spicy, rich, fattening, and acidic, as such dishes can result in stomach problems as well as heartburn. Avoid snacks before bed that are considered stimulants, like chocolate, or have a lot of protein in them as that can increase brain activity. Snacks that can help prepare your body for sleep should include calcium, carbohydrates, and an amino acid called tryptophan. This will have the opposite influence on brain activity and better prepare you for sleep. Some examples of snacks that would help you to sleep include: bananas, yogurt, whole grain and reduced or no sugar cereal, almonds, oats, peaches, potatoes, eggs, and peanut butter sandwiches.
- If you are someone that works at night and sleeps when it’s light outside, there are some additional preparations that you’ll need to make to create a healthy sleep environment. First, you will need heavy shades, blinds, or curtains for the bedroom windows. Block out as much light as you can as this will help you achieve a deep and steady sleep. Also, you might want to get an eye mask to place over your eyes to make the room appear even darker.
- Set aside fifteen to twenty minutes before you go to bed for relaxation time. Make sure that there is nothing more that you need to do and right after the fifteen or twenty minutes are up, you are able to head straight for bed. Relaxation time can be spent in a comfortable chair, listening to soothing music, or looking at a photo album. The idea is to achieve a state of calmness and peacefulness in mind and body while avoiding anxiety and stress, so this could be a terrific time to take up yoga. If you are not using your eyes to look at something, turn the lights real low or off completely. This will send a signal to your body to prepare for sleep in the form of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is an essential component in the sleep cycle of humans and it is released by the body after it becomes dark.
- Leave your problems, thoughts, and imagination outside the bedroom door and don’t let them in! The key to falling asleep quickly, in addition to being relaxed, is to turn off your mind. Don’t think about a thing. Admittedly, this is a difficult technique to develop and utilize, but the results are certainly worth it. If you keep your mind active, you’re hindering and sometimes preventing the sleep cycle from beginning. Just remember, your bed is for sleeping – not daydreaming or stressing over problems. If however you simply cannot turn off your mind because of problems or worries, then get up and grab a pad and pen, and write down what’s bothering you. Get it out of your head and onto paper and tell yourself you’ll address these problems tomorrow. Keep in mind though that the sooner you address the problems, the better the chance you’ll sleep better at night. The better you sleep and the fewer the problems means a happier and healthier life.
- Try to go to bed around the same time each night and get out of bed the same time each morning. By keeping regular times you can train your body to fall asleep and wake up about the same time. You also need to try to avoid temptation to stay up real late and sleep in on the days that you have off because this will negatively impact the schedule that you are trying to set for your body and it will take you a couple of days to readjust each time you break your sleep schedule. Now and then is okay, but not once or twice a week.