The good news? There are things you can do to help you sleep better so you wake up refreshed rather than run down. Here are seven secrets for getting that good night's sleep you crave, according to the National Sleep Foundation and other experts.
Too often, we're all over the map when it comes to when we go to bed and when we wake up. But, making a sleep schedule for ourselves and sticking to it — just as we do with children — is one of the best ways to get a restful night's sleep. Try going to bed around the same time every night and waking up around the same time each morning, even on weekends. Choose a bedtime that's realistic for you, one when you'd normally get tired anyway. And avoid sleeping in. Instead, take a brief nap if you have to, but be careful that you're not napping too much — that can cause sleep trouble, too.
Make sure you're not doing anything too crazy right before bed, like running a marathon or having a dance party on your coffee table. And wind down slowly, so you're giving your body the message that it's time to go to sleep. Do quiet, peaceful, relaxing things like taking a warm bath, reading and stretching. Try to limit or cut out screen time at bedtime, too, suggests the Sleep Foundation, as the light from the computer or TV can activate your brain and wake you up. And here's a tip a lot of us, me included, need to follow: Reserve your bed for sleep and sex — and that's it. What, no working or paying bills in PJs under the covers anymore? Waaa.
Getting enough light in the daytime and cutting back on it at night will boost your natural sleep-wake cycle and body clock — especially what's called your circadian rhythms, which affect the timing of when you're alert and sleepy during the day and at night.
"Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning," advises the Sleep Foundation. "This will keep your circadian rhythms in check."
Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeinated or sugary beverages too close to bedtime, and stay away from big or spicy meals at night. All can disrupt sleep either because they wake you up, cause indigestion or otherwise stop you from sleeping well. You should finish eating between two and three hours before bed, advises the Sleep Foundation. Smoking can also negatively affect your sleep because nicotine is a stimulant and your craving for it might wake you up.
Make sure your bed and bedroom are comfortable enough for sleeping. Your mattress and pillow should provide the proper support, and your room should be quiet, dark and cool — between 60 and 67 degrees F, the Sleep Foundation recommends. If it's too light, noisy, hot or cold, it can wake you up in the middle of the night or make you sleep restlessly.
Daily exercise, even for just 30 minutes, can really help you sleep more peacefully at night. Just don't embark on an intense workout in the evening or right before bed, or you'll get yourself too riled up.
So much of our sleep problems stem from worrying about life's stresses while we're lying in bed. If that's the case for you, try practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing and visualization before bed. Keep a journal about what's bothering you and tell yourself to save the worrying for tomorrow. Do whatever it takes to manage stress so you're not bringing it to bed with you — and if you need help, talk to a doctor or therapist.
If you are having trouble falling asleep, don't just lie there tossing and turning. Instead, get up, go to another room and do something relaxing to get your mind off it — like reading a good book or jotting down some thoughts in a diary. If your sleep problems become chronic and nothing you try at home seems to work, it's probably time to see your doctor. Between following these tips and getting treatment if necessary, you'll be on your way to sleeping like a baby again.
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