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Sixty million Americans are affected by insomnia, a sleep disorder marked by chronic sleeplessness. While it seems to affect mostly women and those over the age of 65, all individuals experience nighttime wakefulness at some point in their lives.
Whether a chronic condition, or caused by jet lag or shift work, difficulty sleeping is frustrating and results in daytime grogginess, fatigue, and even cognitive impairment. You don’t, however, have to continue dealing with these symptoms. Taking some simple steps now can improve your sleep beginning tonight.
Certain substances can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Caffeine, for instance, is a stimulant and can keep you awake. Avoid caffeinated products in the evening. This includes food items like coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate. Some pain relievers also contain caffeine.
Tobacco products and alcohol can also interfere with sleep patterns. Many people think that drinking an alcoholic beverage before bed helps with your night time routine. While it’s true that alcohol can help you fall asleep, It actually affects the quality of sleep. After consuming alcohol prior to bed, people tend to wake more often and toss and turn more than without it. It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid tobacco products at least four hours prior to bedtime and limit adult beverages to a maximum of two drinks per day. Do not drink any alcohol within three hours of sleep to ensure a better night’s sleep.
If you are not tired, there is no point in lying down. It can be frustrating to lie in bed, wide-eyed, staring at the ceiling. Don’t toss and turn uselessly. If you are not asleep after twenty minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you are tired. The bed is for sleeping. Do not allow your body to get used to lying awake in bed, or it may become accustomed to doing so.
Of course, you’ve made your bedroom stylish and snug. However, have you made it sleep comfortable?
There are certain pieces that must fall into place if you want a comfortable bedroom that is ideal for a good night’s sleep. The temperature should be cool, but not cold. Keep temperatures between 60 and 70-degrees Fahrenheit and ensure that the room is well-ventilated. Your bedroom should also be dark, with heavy or blackout curtains to keep out exterior light sources, such as car lights or street lamps. If necessary, use an eye mask to block out excess light.
Ensure that your room is quiet. Close windows and use sound-dampening curtains. Keep your door closed as well. Make use of a “white noise” machine or even just flip on a fan as a steady sound source. You may even want to use earplugs if you are still experiencing some sound pollution at night.
Mattresses can be firm or soft, new or old, and even adjustable to allow you to sit up or prop up your feet. If you awake with a sore back or toss and turn all night long, you might have the wrong type of mattress. Research the type of mattress that is best for your sleep style, such as whether you sleep on your back, side, or stomach.
Also, consider the type of pillow you use. There are a wide variety of pillow styles, including fluffy ones, firm styles, flat or puffy kinds, as well as feather pillows or foam ones. Try out the different types and research which pillow would be best for you.
Don’t forget that most mattresses wear out after ten years of use, so consider the age of your mattress and whether it is time to get a new one.
One way to make sleep easier is to prepare your body for bed with a suitable nighttime routine. If you regularly follow a pre-sleep routine, your body will expect to follow that pattern and be prepared for sleep when you get into the bed.
Begin with a period of relaxing activities for an hour or so prior to your regular bedtime. Shut off all electronic devices and dim the lights. Exposure to artificial light sources can affect your body’s ability to relax and sleep. Consider reading a book or practicing yoga. Taking a bath can stimulate drowsiness. Avoid stressful activities, such as working or discussing emotional issues. Exercising prior to bed can cause a rush of energy, which is counterproductive when you are trying to calm down before bed.
In the same vein as setting a regular nighttime routine, you should also go to bed at the same time each night – even on weekends and holidays.
Your body will set an internal clock that makes the body accustomed to your sleep schedule if it remains consistent. Try to stick to the routine each and every night, and your body will become sleepy on its own in preparation for your scheduled bedtime.
Waking up at the same time every day is just as important. Try to arise at the same time daily, even if you did not sleep well. This will only reinforce your need for sleep the next night.
When you have trouble sleeping, you have a tendency to check the time. However, staring at the clock and determining how much sleep you will get if you fall asleep now will only interfere with your ability to fall asleep. The habit of watching the clock can increase stress and keep you awake longer.
If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep in twenty minutes, it’s best to get up, move to a different room, and do something relaxing. Try reading a book, listening to music, or some other activity. Don’t turn on the lights or get on your phone. The light can interfere with your internal clock. Once you start growing sleepy again, head back to bed.
In many countries, napping is considered an essential part of the day. While it’s not as common in the United States, some Americans still enjoy a daytime nap on occasion. If you notice nighttime sleep problems on days that you nap, it may be time to cut out afternoon naps or at least change when you take them.
If you do nap, keep it short and make it early. Do not sleep after five o’clock and set an alarm so that you wake up after approximately thirty minutes of sleep. These changes should help with improving your sleep.
Dinner should occur several hours before bedtime and should not include any foods that may cause indigestion. Limit nighttime snacks to light foods that have not interfered with your sleep in the past. You may need to keep a food diary to monitor which foods tend to keep you awake and which are safe to snack on after dinner without impeding your sleep routine.
While it is recommended that you drink eight cups of water daily for your general health, you may not want to consume much of those beverages close to bedtime. Too much water before bed can lead to awakening with the need to use the bathroom. This is especially true if you have a condition that causes an increase in the urge to urinate, such as diabetes or pregnancy.
If you follow through with these ten steps for improving your sleep, you’re bound to feel well rested and alert in the morning. If you are still experiencing drowsiness or have trouble sleeping, you may need to see a doctor or sleep specialist for a potential sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or narcolepsy.
However, a good night’s sleep is only a night away if you develop good sleep habits and a solid sleep routine.