11 Ways to Sleep Better
Studies show that far too many of us are not sleeping well, and lack of good-quality sleep can lead to more than just feeling tired: everything from traffic accidents and poor work performance to crankiness, illness, and a less-than-attractive appearance can be the result of sleeping poorly.
To look and feel your absolute best, you need to get approximately seven to nine hours of deeply restful, quality sleep each night. Here are eleven simple tips so you can start sleeping like a baby. Find out how to get a great night’s sleep, right here:
1. Create a sleep-conducive environment.
The room you sleep in is vital to getting rest. Make sure it is dark, clean and has good ventilation. Try to keep the air fresh and the room temperature between 60 and 65 degrees for the best sleeping conditions. Make sure you have the right amount of blankets and soft pillows. If it isn’t comfortable, you aren’t going to sleep. Also minimize noise and light during sleep by using ear plugs and window blinds.
2. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.
Caffeinated drinks and food such as coffee, tea, sodas and chocolate will keep the mind stimulated much longer than some people think.
And while alcohol may feel like it’s putting you to sleep, its sedating effect won’t last the whole night. Alcohol is a depressant; although it may make it easier to fall asleep, it causes you to wake up during the night. As alcohol is digested your body goes into withdrawal from the alcohol, causing nighttime awakenings and often nightmares. Excessive alcohol use can lead to dependence, and the withdrawal from alcohol dependence can also affect your sleep.
Nicotine is also a stimulant and should be avoided near bedtime and if you wake up during the night. Thus, having a smoke before bed, although it feels relaxing, is actually putting a stimulant into your bloodstream. And by the way, maybe you should think about quiting smoking for good.
3. Exercise regularly.
Working at the office might make you sweat mentally, but it’s not giving your body enough work. People who work physically strenuous jobs experience fewer problems with insomnia than those with office jobs because their bodies feel exhaustion too.
Get plenty of vigorous exercise early in the day so you’ll be naturally tired come bedtime. Try working out for as little as 20 minutes and your body will feel stimulated. Exercise will also help you get more oxygen to relax more. Remember not to exercise at least a couple of hours before bed so that you have time to wind down afterward.
4. Have a bedtime schedule.
Your life may not be routine, but your body likes it that way. Try to fall asleep and wake at the same time each day-yes, even on the weekends. Figure out how many hours your body needs to feel rested and schedule your sleep that way, even on nights you don’t feel tired-it’s good practice and your body will appreciate it. Once your body gets used to a routine, it will naturally want to fall asleep at the designated time.
Keep your biological clock going in the right direction, otherwise you will be fighting against it.
5. Keep bed a place for sleep.
The bed should be for only one thing: sleep … well, two things–but only for sleep and sex. Many people tend to read, work, watch television, some even eat in their beds, but your mind should never associate it with anything else. Let your mind and body identify that comfy spot with sleep.
Also, don’t watch TV or even so much as look at a computer screen at least 30 minutes before you lie down. The light from both a television as well as a computer monitor mimic the same intensity of light as sunlight. This fools your body and brain into thinking it’s nowhere near time for sleep. Also the best way to fall asleep is to clear your mind of all thoughts-the last thing you want is to lie in bed awake and thinking. If that happens, get up and do something non-stimulating, then try falling asleep again.
6. Warm milk or herbal tea.
Looks like Mom had it right when you were a kid. Milk contains calcium to help you relax, while the warmth is also soothing. Milk also has an amino acid in it called Tryptophan that increase the levels of serotonin and/or melatonin in the brain which slow down brain activity. It’s science folks.
But dairy products aren’t always right for everyone-in that case, have a cup of tea. There are many herbal types that are made specifically for sleep aide, but chamomile, anise, fennel and lavender are known for their soothing and relaxing qualities.
7. Relaxation: massage, warm bath, meditation.
There are plenty of ways to relax, yet not enough people do it. You can simply take a bath in warm water containing a cup of bath salts, as long as the water isn’t too hot. A nice massage after work or even a quick back rub from your spouse can do the job. Relieving tension and stress will help you clear your mind before bed so you can concentrate on sleep and nothing else. Play soothing music-even ambient noise will drown out street noise-while aromatherapy also has relaxation qualities, so you may put a drop or two of soothing essential oil of lavender or Roman chamomile on your pillow.
Meditate. No, don’t cross your legs and hum, but focus on relaxing…if that makes sense. Take deep, long breaths. Tense each muscle one at a time from head to toe. Focusing on doing this takes your mind off of other things and you’ll be in lala land in no time. Certainly there are other benefits as well. The Transcendental Meditation technique has been shown to produce deep rest, reduced anxiety, and very effective relief from insomnia.
8. Have a “going to bed” ritual.
Do you have to think about washing your hair? How about showering?
If you’re like most people, these are periods of lost time where you’re doing something but you don’t actually have to think about doing it. They’re so automatic that you can daydream about anything else and come back down to earth when the task is complete. If we can establish such a state before sleep by establishing a repeated pattern, then we’ll set ourselves up for a perfectly relaxed state.
A typical pattern may be:
1) Read for some time
2) Brush teeth
3) Turn on fan
4) Set alarm
After following such a pattern for long enough, you’ll not only induce the relaxed state, but you’ll condition yourself to make the whole process more effective. Like Pavlov’s dogs, once that fan gets turned on (for example) our pre-programmed physiological relax-sleep response will kick in.
9. Don’t nap during the day.
I know it may sound contradictory as I already wrote about the benefits of napping, but practically speaking if you sleep too long during the day, then this will disrupt night time sleep, so it’s important to find the right balance. But if you can’t find that balance you better stop napping during the day.
10. Don’t eat before sleep.
A light snack may be sleep inducing, but a heavy meal too close to bedtime interferes with sleep. Digestion takes lots of energy and will keep you awake. Also spicy or fatty foods may cause heartburn, which leads to difficulty in falling asleep and discomfort throughout the night. Foods containing tyramine (bacon, cheese, ham, aubergines, pepperoni, raspberries avocado, nuts, soy sauce, red wine) might keep you awake at night. Tyramine causes the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant.
But if you do get hungry close to bedtime, try eating something that triggers the hormone serotonin, which makes you sleepy. Carbohydrates such as bread or cereal will do the trick.
Insomnia stems from a number of reasons, and while it is usually due to stress or anxiety, it can be associated with physical disorders. If you find simple methods aren’t helping you fall asleep, it’s time to see a doctor.
Though doctors will probably suggest sleep tips first, they can also prescribe drugs to assist you in sleeping. Always remember that medicines have potential side effects, and though they can help some people beat insomnia, they may not always work.
These are the majority of the things I have either tried or actually do routinely. And remember that by improving your sleep you will have a dramatic impact on your body composition, performance and health. So good luck, and Sleep Well!
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