6 Ways to Better Sleep for a Healthier You
Sleep plays a major role in your overall physical and mental health and quality of life. A good night's sleep improves learning and memory, boosts your problem-solving skills and creativity, and helps you control your emotions and behaviors more effectively. Important immune system and hormone functions occur during sleep that protect your overall health and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
If your quality of sleep is lacking due to insomnia, frequently waking up at night, or poor quality sleep that leaves you groggy the next day, these tips can help.
Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule
If you go to bed at different times each night and wake up early some days or sleep in others, your body's internal clock may need some tweaking. By going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time every morning, you can effectively reset your internal clock to help you fall asleep better and stay asleep through the night.
Develop a Bedtime Ritual
If you're having trouble falling asleep at night, a relaxing bedtime ritual may help. In the evenings, your brain is probably still reeling from the stress, excitement, and activities of the day. Quieting your mind and relaxing your body before bedtime each night can help prepare you for a better night's sleep. Turn down the lights, and stay away from screens, which can prevent the release of the sleep hormone melatonin. Take a relaxing bath, read a book, write in your journal, or sit on the patio in the twilight and enjoy the sights and sounds of the evening.
Exercise Every Day
Daily exercise can dramatically improve your sleep. Vigorous exercise is best, but even a brisk half-hour walk can set your mind and body up for a better night's sleep. Exercising in the afternoon or early evening is best, because it triggers an increase in body temperature, and when your body begins to cool off later on, it can help trigger falling asleep.
Improve Your Sleep Environment
Make your bedroom a sleeping oasis. Clear up the clutter and install blackout curtains to make the room as dark as possible at night. Keep the temperature of your room between 60 and 67 degrees and use a white noise machine if environmental noises keep you up at night. If your mattress is particularly old or uncomfortable, invest in a high-quality mattress. After all, you spend one third of your life lying on it.
Eat Lightly in the Evenings
A large meal before bed can make it harder to fall asleep and stay that way. Eat early in the evening and if you're hungry before bed, choose a light, healthy snack, such as yogurt and a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit and a slice of whole-grain toast. Avoid caffeine from the afternoon on and don't drink too many fluids — including alcohol — before bedtime.
Get Up if You Can't Sleep
Nothing's worse than lying in bed stressing because you can't sleep, whether you're just going to bed or you wake up in the middle of the night. The more you stress, the more sleep eludes you. Experts recommend waiting 20 minutes for sleep to come. If it doesn't, get out of bed and find a comfortable place to read or listen to music. Keep the lights low and don't be tempted by your screens, which can stimulate the brain and suppress sleep hormones. When your eyelids are drooping and you're sleepy again, head back to bed.