How you feel during your waking hours often hinges on how well you sleep. Similarly, the cure for daytime fatigue and sleep difficulties can often be found in your daily routine and lifestyle choices. Experiment with the following tips to find the ones that work best to improve your sleep and leave you feeling productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and full of energy.
Following healthy sleep habits can make the difference between restlessness and restful slumber. Researchers have identified a variety of practices and habits - known as sleep hygiene - that can help anyone maximize the hours they spend sleeping, even those whose sleep is affected by insomnia, jet lag, or shift work. Sleep hygiene is the best way to get the sleep you need. Here are some simple tips for making the sleep of your dreams a nightly reality.
Keep in sync with your body's natural sleep-wake cycle
Getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle is one of the most important strategies for sleeping better. If you keep a regular sleep-wake schedule you’ll feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times. Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. This helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of sleep.
Control your exposure to light
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark - making you sleepy - and less when it’s light - making you more alert. To keep your sleep-wake cycle on track expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning and daytime. At night avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime. The blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer, or TV is especially disruptive. You can minimize the impact by using devices with smaller screens, turning the brightness down. Say no to late-night television. Try listening to music or audio books instead. When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark.
Exercise vigorously during the day
Regular exercisers sleep better and feel less sleepy during the day. Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. Exercise speeds up your metabolism, elevates body temperature, and stimulates hormones such as cortisol. This isn’t a problem if you’re exercising in the morning or afternoon, but too close to bed and it can interfere with sleep.
Eat and drink smartly
Your daytime eating habits play a role in how well you sleep, especially in the hours before bedtime. Limit caffeine and nicotine. Caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it. Similarly, smoking is another stimulant that can disrupt your sleep, especially if you smoke close to bedtime. Avoid big meals at night. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Spicy or acidic foods can cause stomach trouble and heartburn. Avoid alcohol before bed.
Relax and clear your head
If anxiety or chronic worrying dominates your thoughts at night, there are steps you can take to learn how to stop worrying and look at life from a more positive perspective. If the stress of work, family, or school is keeping you awake, you may need help with stress management. By learning how to manage your time effectively, handle stress in a productive way, and maintain a calm, positive outlook, you’ll be able to sleep better at night. The more overstimulated your brain becomes during the day, the harder it can be slow down and unwind at night. Practicing relaxation techniques before bed is a great way to wind down, calm the mind, and prepare for sleep. Indulge in some relaxing bedtime rituals to help you unwind before sleep like read a book or magazine by a soft light, take a warm bath, listen to soft music, do some easy stretches
Improve your sleep environment
A peaceful bedtime routine sends a powerful signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses. Sometimes even small changes to your environment can make a big difference to your quality of sleep. Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet and the noise down. If you can't avoid or eliminate noise from neighbors, traffic, or other people in your household, try masking it with a fan or sound machine. Make sure your bed is comfortable.
Learn ways to get back to sleep
It’s normal to wake briefly during the night but if you’re having trouble falling back asleep, these tips may help. Stay out of your head. Though hard, try not to stress over your inability to fall asleep again, because that stress only encourages your body to stay awake. Focus on the feelings in your body or practice breathing exercises. Make relaxation your goal, not sleep. Even though it’s not a replacement for sleep, relaxation can still help rejuvenate your body. Do a quiet, non-stimulating activity. If you’ve been awake for more than 15 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet, non-stimulating activity, such as reading a book. Keep the lights dim and avoid screens so as not to cue your body that it’s time to wake up.
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