How to sleep better

How to sleep better: The Secret to Getting a Good Night Sleep Every Night

Our daily activities and mood greatly depends on the quality and quantity of sleep that we get each and every night.  Similarly the quality and quantity of sleep we get also greatly depends on our daily activities and routine.  Our sleep schedule, bedtime routine and daily lifestyle choices makes a huge impact on the quality or our sleep.  The average healthy adult needs at least eight hours of sleep each night to function at our best to be productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced and full of energy all day long.

Getting a deep, restorative and rejuvenating sleep can hinge on a number of well-planned strategies that can be employed every night.  By educating ourselves about the common things that can disrupt our sleep, we can try healthy sleep-promoting techniques to discover our personal best remedy for a good night’s rest.  Below are a number of sleep tips that promote a better nights rest, the key is to try them all as what works for some might not work well for other.  So go ahead and find the best sleep strategies that work the best for you and start sleeping!!!

Tip #1:  Keep a regular bedtime routine.

There are many benefits to keeping a regular sleep schedule and this is especially an important aspect for achieving good sleep.  Creating a sleep schedule allows your body to identify it’s natural sleep-wake cycle.  Keeping a regular sleep routine will allow you to obtain a longer, deeper and less interrupted sleep which in return you wake feeling rested, refreshed and more energized.  The key to a sleep routine is consistency as even altering your schedule by only an hour or two or skipping your nighttime routine could interrupt your sleep pattern.

There are a number of actives to consider when setting a bedtime routine.

  • Set a regular bedtime. Try to go to bed at the same time every night.  Go to bed when your body naturally feels tired to avoid tossing and turning in attempt to fall asleep.  If you are trying to set an earlier bed time; do this by going to bed 15 minutes earlier every night until you reach your desired bedtime.  Avoid the temptation to “stay up late on the weekend” as deviating from your sleep schedule even an hour or two can interrupt your sleep pattern.
  • Wake up at the same time every day. When your body is getting the required amount of sleep that it needs, you will start to wake up naturally without an alarm.  Try to maintain a regular wake up time; just like you would with a regular bedtime.

 

  • Be smart about napping and only use it to make up for lost sleep. Try to avoid napping if you have a really hard time sleeping or have been diagnosed with insomnia.  If you must catch up on lost sleep then try to nap in the early afternoon and limit your nap to half an hour.  Napping is a better alternative to sleeping in as it allows you to gain more hours of rest without disturbing your natural sleep wake rhythm.

 

  • Avoid after-dinner drowsiness with activity. Try to avoid taking an after dinner nap by doing light activities around the house or outside.  You can do things such as going for a leisurely walk, grocery shopping, tidy the house, laundry etc.  If you fall asleep prior to your scheduled sleep time, you may end up waking up later in the night and have trouble falling back to sleep.

Your Optimal Sleep Schedule-To find your optimal sleep schedule you might

have to experiment with different bedtimes.  Pick a time when you naturally feel tired and go to bed; keep this time for a week or two and allow yourself to wake up naturally (no alarm clocks).  In keeping the same bedtime and wake time, you will naturally find a sleep schedule that works for your individual needs.  Keep in mind that if you are sleep deprived it may take a few weeks to fully recover from the lack of sleep; so do not be discouraged and be consistent.

 

Tip #2:  Naturally regulate sleep-wake cycle

There are many things in today’s busy society that can disrupt your natural sleep-wake cycle.  This happens when activities we are involved disrupts the natural production of melatonin in our brain.  Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by our brain naturally and is controlled by light exposure to help regulate our sleep-wake cycle.  Your brain is supposed to secrete more melatonin in the evening when dark making you sleepy and less during the day when light making your feel more alert and awake.   We suppress our body’s production of melatonin when we spend long days indoors in artificial light, hours in front of the TV or computer screen; which all make it harder for us to fall asleep.

There are ways that you can naturally regulate your melatonin secretion to stay awake during the day and fall asleep easier at night.

During the day increase your light exposure by doing things such as; removing your sunglasses allowing the natural light on your face, spending more time outside during the daylight hours and increase the natural light in your house or workspace by opening the blinds.  If you find that you cannot get outside during the day because of lifestyle constraints you can always try a light therapy box which can stimulate natural sunlight.

At night you can boost your melatonin production by turning off the television and computer which can suppress melatonin.  Try relaxation exercises, reading a book or audio book and if using a reading device do no use one that is backlit, use one that requires an additional light source such as a lamp.  Attempt to avoid bright light during the evening to prepare for bedtime.  Make sure your bedroom is dark as the darker it is the better you will sleep.  You can use black out blinds for the windows, covers for your electrical devices and a sleep mask to cover your eyes.  If you wake up in the night to use the bathroom, try to avoid turning on a bright light, instead use a soft night light.

 

Tip #3:  Creating a relaxing bedtime routine

We are so busy in our day to day lives that it affects the way we sleep at night.  Often we do not allow our bodies the opportunity to relax and unwind before bed and this can cause us to have an interrupted sleep, a hard time falling asleep and a restless sleep.  If you consciously create a relaxing bedtime routine it will help you fall asleep easier and have a deeper sleep.  Creating a relaxing bedtime routine can help your brain unwind and release the stresses from the day.

There are many activities you can do to create a relaxing bedtime routine, such as:

  • reading a book or magazine in a soft light
  • having a warm bath
  • listening to relaxing soft music
  • doing some easy stretches or yoga
  • listening to an audio book
  • doing a favorite hobby that is not labour intensive
  • meditation or breathing exercises
  • make simple preparations for the next day

 

Another thing you can do to keep your bedtime routine relaxing is by making sure your bedroom is sleep friendly.  Try to keep the noise down by using a fan, earplugs, and recordings of soothing sounds or white noise.  Keep the temperature of your room cool around 65F or 18C as a room that is too hot or too cold can interfere with your sleep quality.  Make sure your bed is comfortable with enough room for you to stretch out and turn over while sleeping.  If you wake up with too many aches and pains you may want to invest in a new mattress.

A key to keeping your bedroom a relaxing place to unwind and rest is by only using your bed for sleep and sex.  Do not do any activities in your bedroom like work or errands as it will be harder to wind down at night.  This way at night your brain gets a powerful cue and will only associate your bed with sleep or being romantic.

 

Tip #4:  Eating right and regular exercise

The activities we do and foods we eat during the day play a huge role in the quality of sleep we get at night.  It is very important to watch the foods we eat and our activity level in the hours leading up to our bedtime.

  • Stay away from big, heavy meals at night. Keep dinner time early in the evening and avoid heavy, spicy or rich fatty foods within a couple hours of bed.  These foods can take a long time for your stomach to digest and can cause heartburn and indigestion.
  • Cut down on caffeine. Caffeine can effect on our bodies for 10-12 hours after drinking it.  Drinking coffee in the afternoon can cause you to have a hard time falling asleep.  Consider limiting your caffeine consumption to early morning hours and if you want to drink coffee in the afternoon try decaf coffee instead.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed. Alcohol can cause a person to become drowsy and help you fall asleep faster but it reduces your quality of sleep by waking throughout the night and not allowing for a deep, more restful sleep.  Try not to drink alcohol 2-3 hours leading up to your bedtime.
  • Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. Drinking lots of fluids in the evening may cause you to wake during the night to use the bathroom.  Also caffeinated drinks act as diuretics which make you have to urinate more frequently.
  • Quit smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant which in itself can disrupt sleep but not only is it a stimulant it is also highly addictive.  Therefore throughout the night smokers experience nicotine withdrawal making it harder for them to stay sleeping which interrupts their quality of sleep.

Some people need to have a light snack before bed in order to promote sleep.  This is not the case for everyone as it can cause indigestion in others making sleep difficult.  If you are hungry at bedtime try to eating a half a turkey sandwich, small bowl of whole-grain or low sugar cereal, granola with low-fat milk, yogurt or a banana.

Regular exercise can promote good quality sleep.  Doing as little as 30 minutes of activity a day can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep and wake up feeling rested.  Schedule your exercise in the morning or early afternoon as exercising late in the evening can stimulate the body interrupting your sleep schedule.  If you want to exercise at night try relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching which can promote sleep.

 

Tip #5:  Control your anxiety and stress

Stress, worry, anger and tension from our day can make it very difficult for us to fall asleep and stay asleep.  If you are continually waking up during the night or cannot fall asleep; consider keeping a journal of what has happened throughout your day and find any recurring themes.  This will help you to determine your stress or tension and control the issue.

If you are a person who constantly worries and has a hard time controlling it then there are a number of techniques you can use to help manage your thoughts.  You can learn to evaluate your thoughts to determine if they are realistic fears or irrational.  If you find that they are irrational then you can learn to replace them with more productive thoughts.

If the stress of managing work, school or family is still not allowing you to sleep then you may need to learn stress management.  By learning how to manage your time and work-life balance; you will be more equip to handle stress in a productive, calm way and maintain a positive outlook.  By controlling your stress you will be able to fall asleep quicker and obtain a better quality sleep.

Techniques to control anxiety and stress

  • Deep breathing. Sit in a quiet room where you will not be interrupted, close your eyes, take a deep inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth slowly.  Keep breathing deeper and deeper with each breath.  Tune into your breath and relax.
  • Muscle relaxation. Lie down in a quiet room where you will not be interrupted.  Close your eyes and relax your whole body.  Take some deep breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth.  Start to concentrate on your toes and tense the muscles as tightly as you can for a couple of seconds, then completely relax.  Continue to do this with all your body parts from your feet to the top of your head.  Once completed just continue to lie there and breathe deeply concentrating on your breath.
  • Sit or lie in a quiet room where you will not be interrupted.  Close your eyes and imagine the most peaceful, calm and relaxing place for you.  Continue to focus on your breathing, inhaling and exhaling deeply.  Focus on relaxing and the feeling of relaxation that you get in your “calm place.”
  • Relaxation yoga is very effective for controlling anxiety and stress.  There are many restorative poses that are used to relax the body and mind.  By doing this type of yoga before bed you will relax the body which can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep.  The photo on the right are some basic stretches you can do before bed that can help to ease tension in your muscles and allow you to fall asleep with ease.  Remember to do the stretches at your own pace as you do not want to overdo it and injure yourself.

Tip #6:  How to fall back asleep

We wake many times throughout the night but normally fall back to sleep without even remembering it.  If you are waking up throughout the night and are having a hard time falling back to sleep there are many techniques you can use to help you fall back to sleep.

  • Do not start thinking!!! The main thing to remember when trying to fall back asleep is to continue cueing your body to sleep.  Stay in bed in a relaxed position and do not get stressed that you are awake.  Focus on your body and breathe with your relaxation techniques.  By doing this you will eventually drift back to sleep.
  • Focus on relaxation, not sleep. If you are having a hard time falling back to sleep, try not to focus on sleeping but rather focus on relaxing your mind and body.  Use your visualization, deep breathing or meditation which can all be done without getting out of bed.  Although relaxation is not a replacement for sleep it can still be hugely beneficial to rejuvenate your body.
  • Do a non-stimulating quiet activity. If you try to go to sleep for 15 minutes or more and the relaxation techniques are not working, then try getting out of bed and doing a non-stimulating activity such as reading a book, drink herbal tea or a light snack.  Keep the lights low and do not use electronics such as computers, TV, cell phones or iPads as they emit a light that stimulates the brain.
  • Stop worrying and brainstorming. Keep a note pad and pen beside the bed because if you wake up during the night feeling really anxious or worried about something, you can make a note of it on the paper and postpone stressing about it until the morning.   Also if a great idea or thought is keeping you awake, make a note of it on a paper; you can fall back asleep knowing that you have logged your idea and work on it in the morning.  All ideas, worries and thoughts will be easier to resolve as you will be more productive and creative after a good night’s rest.

Tip #7:  Sleep tips to cope with shift work

Shift work can completely destroy your sleep schedule and routine.  Working night shifts or irregular shifts can affect your mood, energy, concentration and sleepiness at work and home.  This is dangerous as it can increase your risk of accidents and injury at work.  Many shift workers tend to excessively sleep at home during the day and have a hard time staying away during the night.  There are many techniques to avoid or limit these problems, such as:

  • If possible try to limit the number or irregular shifts or night shifts. Attempt to limit the number of night shifts and irregular shifts that you work to prevent sleep deprivation as it is hard to obtain quality sleep during the day.  If that is not possible try to avoid frequently rotating shifts as then you can maintain the same sleep schedule.
  • Decrease your commute to work. Having a long commute to and from work reduces your amount of sleep time.
  • Limit the amount of caffeinated drinks during your shift. If you drink caffeinated drinks such as pop and coffee during your shift, try to decrease the amount you consume near the end of your shift.  If you drink caffeinated drinks near the end of your shift it will interfere with your ability to fall asleep and obtain quality sleep.
  • Take numerous breaks and move around. Throughout your shift take numerous breaks and move around as much as possible; walk, stretch, or exercise if possible.
  • Adjust your sleep-wake schedule. Try to adjust your sleep-wake schedule and the body’s natural production of melatonin.  If working night shift expose yourself to bright lights such as lamps or daylight-stimulation bulbs to decrease the melatonin production and feel more awake.  When driving home after completing your night shift, wear dark glasses on your way home to block out the sunlight and increase melatonin production encouraging sleepiness.
  • During the day eliminate noise and light from your bedroom. After a night shift sleep may be difficult as light and noise affects sleep.  Use blackout curtains in your bedroom to block out light, also use a sleep mask to block any internal light.  Turn off the ringer on your phone, use ear plugs or a sound machine to block out any daytime noise.
  • Make sleep a priority. You must make sleep a priority on your working and nonworking days.  Do not compromise your sleep in order to complete household tasks, social events etc. as your sleep debt will catch up to you and interfere with everything in your life.

Tip #8:  Consider consulting with a sleep doctor

If you are still struggling with sleep problems after trying all the above noted tips, then you might want to consider professional treatment.  Schedule a visit with a sleep doctor if after your own personal attempts you are still troubled by any of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Loud snoring accompanied by pauses in breathing
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Non-refreshing sleep
  • Frequent morning headaches
  • Crawling sensations in your legs or arms at night
  • Inability to move while falling asleep or waking up
  • Physically acting out dreams during sleep
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times

 

Hopefully these sleep tips can help you fall asleep fast and stay asleep all night long allowing you to wake feeling rested and rejuvenated.  Many people underestimate the value that sleep has on our everyday life and are literally walking around like zombies.  Putting sleep as a priority in your life will not only benefit your health but it will also make you more productive and involved in your daily activities such as family and work.  By using the tips listed on a regular basis you should start to develop a schedule/pattern which after some time will just become habit and you will not even have to try to get a better sleep as your body will be programmed to do so.  So stop counting sheep and start sleeping better today!!

 

 

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