According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of U.S. adults routinely sleep fewer than six hours a night. That’s bad news because the benefits of adequate sleep range from better heart health and less stress to improved memory and weight loss.
Stop loading up on caffeine or sneaking in naps and use our top tips to help get the shut-eye you need to manage your health.
HAVE A SLEEP ROUTINE
1. Develop a sleep routine
It might seem tempting, but sleeping until noon on Saturday will only disrupt your biological clock and cause more sleep problems. Going to bed at the same time every night even on weekends, holidays, and other days off helps to establish your internal sleep/wake clock and reduces the amount of tossing and turning required to fall asleep.
2. Move it!
Researchers in Northwestern University’s Department of Neurobiology and Physiology reported that previously sedentary adults who got aerobic exercise four times a week improved their sleep quality from poor to good. These former couch potatoes also reported fewer depressive symptoms, more vitality, and less sleepiness during the daytime. Just be sure to wrap up your workout session several hours before bedtime so that you’re not too revved up to get a good night’s sleep.
3. Change your diet
Cut out the food and drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate, by mid-afternoon. Make dinner your lightest meal, and finish it a few hours before bedtime. Skip spicy or heavy foods, which can keep you awake with heartburn or indigestion.
4. Don't smoke
A study found that smokers are four times more likely to not feel as well rested after a full night’s sleep than nonsmokers. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine attribute this to the stimulative effect of nicotine and the nighttime withdrawal from it. Smoking also exacerbates sleep apnea and other breathing disorders such as asthma, which can make it difficult to get restful sleep.
5. Say no to a nightcap
Alcohol disrupts the pattern of sleep and brainwaves that help you feel refreshed in the morning. A martini may help you doze off initially, but once it wears off, you’re likely to wake up and have a hard time getting back to sleep, according to Mayo Clinic.
TURN OFF ELECTRONICS
6. Become a Luddite an hour before bedtime
A National Sleep Foundation (NSF) survey found that nearly all participants used some type of electronics, like a television, computer, video game, or cell phone, within the last hour before going to bed. That’s a bad idea. Light from these devices stimulates the brain, making it harder to wind down. Put your gadgets away an hour before bedtime to fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly.
7. Hog the bed
A study performed by Mayo Clinic’s Dr. John Shepard found that 53 percent of pet owners who sleep with their pets experience sleep disruption every night. And more than 80 percent of adults who sleep with children have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Dogs and kids can be some of the biggest bed hogs, and some of the worst sleepers. Everyone deserves their own sleeping space, so keep dogs and kids out of your bed.
KEEP IT COOL
8. Keep it temperate, not tropical
Eighty degrees may be great for the beach, but it’s lousy for the bedroom at night. A temperate room is more conducive to sleeping than a tropical one. The NSF recommends a temperature somewhere around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Striking a balance between the thermostat, the bed covers, and your sleeping attire will reduce your core body temperature and help you drift off to sleep faster and more deeply.
KEEP IT DARK
9. Black it out
Light tells your brain that it’s time to wake up, so make your room as dark as possible for sleep. Even a small amount of ambient light from your cell phone or computer can disrupt the production of melatonin (a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles) and overall sleep.
USE BED FOR SLEEPING ONLY
10. Use your bed for sleeping only
Your bed should be associated with sleeping, not working, eating, or watching TV. If you wake up during the night, skip turning on your laptop or TV and do something soothing like meditating or reading until you feel sleepy again.
Sleep is a beautiful thing. If you feel you’re not getting enough sleep, or not enjoying quality sleep, these simple adjustments can help contribute to a more restful night.
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