A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO BETTER GOOD DEEP NIGHT SLEEP
If you can’t sleep more than 7 hours per night on a regular basis, there’s a good chance you suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, a condition that affects over 40% of American adults. This guide outlines key steps you can take to improve your sleep hygiene for better overall health.
STEP 1 CREATE THE RIGHT SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
Paint Your Bedroom a Calming Color
Choose muted earth tones, soft blues, and buttery yellows to help create a calm environment conducive to rest and relaxation. Bright colors tend to stimulate the brain, which makes it harder to fall asleep.
Get a Comfortable Mattress and Pillow
Replace your mattress every 5 to 8 years or sooner if you experience any of the following: your allergy symptoms seem worse in bed, you regularly wake up with aches and pains, you tend to sleep better while away from home, or your mattress is visibly lumpy or sags.
Replace your pillow every 12 to 18 months as old pillows don’t provide the same amount of support for your neck and may contain dust mites, mold, and mildew that can worsen allergies and leave you sneezing all night.
Maintain a Clean Bedroom
Set aside time to thoroughly clean your bedroom as it’s hard to feel calm and relaxed when staring at piles of clutter. Dusting, vacuuming, and changing bed sheets weekly will also help ease allergy symptoms, which can disrupt your sleep.
Keep Pets Out of Your Bedroom
Don’t share your bed with pets as they can disturb your sleep without you even knowing it whenever they move around the room. Also, pet fur can contribute to allergy symptoms and you may even find yourself waking up with more aches and pains as you alter your sleeping position to accommodate your cat or dog.
Restrict Your Bed to Sleep and Romance
Limit bed activities to sleep and intimacy only as reading, studying, watching TV, playing video games, and catching up on work emails stimulate the brain and cause you to associate your bed with other pursuits, making it harder to fall asleep.
Strive to make your bedroom an electronics-free zone as devices like tablets, smartphones, and laptops emit blue light, which can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin and make falling asleep more difficult. The low-level light from standby power buttons and the noise of alerts and notifications also hinder you from sleeping well.
Keep Your Bedroom Cool, Dark, and Qonversations, or a dripping faucet
Lower your thermostat 5 to 10°F right before bedtime and keep it at under 70°F throughout the night as cooler air correlates with more restful sleep.
Keep your bedroom as dark as possible as the sleep-wake cycle is largely regulated by light. To achieve this effect, consider installing blackout curtains or wear a sleep mask.
Wear a pair of earplugs or use a white noise machine to mask disruptive sounds such as road traffic, background conversations, or a dripping faucet.
Hide Your Alarm Clock
Cover the face of your alarm clock or turn it away from you while sleeping. If you have trouble falling asleep, having that constant reminder of how little time you have left until you have to get up can create sleep anxiety and make it even harder to doze off.
STEP 2 – PREPARE FOR A GOOD NIGHT SLEEP
Control Your Exposure to Light
Limit your exposure to natural and artificial light in the evening to help trigger the production of melatonin in your body – the hormone responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. For best results, restrict your use of computers, smartphones, and other electronics starting 2 hours before bedtime as these devices emit blue light that can inhibit melatonin production.
Stick to your Body’s Natural Sleep-wake Cycle
Go to bed and get up at a consistent time that’s in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Even altering your sleep and wake times by sleeping in on the weekend an extra hour or two is enough to disrupt your circadian rhythm and create the same effect as jet lag. If you find yourself so engrossed in an activity that you overlook your bedtime, try setting an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you.
Exercise During the Day
Get at least 30 minutes of exercise 3x per week to help stimulate longer periods of deep, restorative sleep and alleviate the stress that can keep you tossing and turning. Give special attention to aerobic exercises, strength training, and yoga to benefit sleep duration and quality.
Time your exercises in the late afternoon or early evening for best results as exercising less than 2 hours before bedtime may have the opposite effect by over stimulating the brain. Note that it can take 2 to 4 months for your efforts to pay off so you must stay patient!
Watch What You Eat and Drink
Eat a light meal for dinner and stay away from spicy foods to help prevent heartburn and indigestion. If you need a snack before bedtime, look for foods high in tryptophan, such as turkey, yogurt, milk, cheese, and almonds.
Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages after noon as they can stay in your system for several hours, long enough to impact sleep. Consuming alcohol is also a poor choice if you want a good night of sleep as it can suppress melatonin production, leading to restless and fragmented sleep.
If you often get up during the night to use the restroom, stop drinking fluids within 2 hours of bedtime.
Calm Your Mind and Body
Avoid having difficult or touchy conversations before bedtime as you’re more likely to stay awake replaying the events in your head. If you tend to dwell on worries and unfinished tasks when trying to fall asleep, try techniques like journaling and to-do lists to get all your concerns out of your system earlier in the day.
You may also benefit from relaxation techniques such as warm baths, aromatherapy, deep abdominal breathing, and listening to recordings of nature sounds or ambient music.
STEP 3 THE LIGHTS ARE OUT, NOW WHAT?
Try Mental Games and Visualization Techniques
Play mental games such as slowly counting backward from 100 to help keep your mind from racing and focused on worries. If your body feels tense from the stresses of the day, relax each body part starting with your toes and working your way up to your head.
Get Out of Bed If You Can’t Sleep.vel. Just make sure to
Don’t linger in bed if you’re unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes. Staring at the ceiling while awake can lead to stress and anxiety, which only compounds the problem. Instead, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing until you start to feel sleepy, such as listening to your favorite mellow playlist or reading an easygoing book. Just make sure to keep the lights as dim as possible to avoid becoming even more alert.
Consider Taking Sleep Aids (Temporarily)
Consider taking a natural sleep supplement like Melatonin or Magnesium or prescription sleep aids like Ambien or Rozerem if you have a temporary sleep issue caused by something like a stressful event or travel. Just make sure to
consult your healthcare provider beforehand.
Switch Your Sleeping Position
Try sleeping on your back if neck or back pain wakes you up during the night or leaves you feeling stiff and achy in the morning. Not only is this sleeping position easiest on your neck, back, and hips, it’s also the least likely to worsen acid reflux or other conditions that may interfere with your good night sleep.
Avoid Snooze Button
Resist the urge to hit the snooze button as those extra minutes of sleep are just long enough to start a whole new sleep cycle, which will only leave you feeling groggy and fuzzy-headed the rest of the morning. Consider swapping your alarm clock for a wake-up light instead, which uses gradually increasing light for a more natural wake up experience.
STEP 4 – PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Take Baby Steps
Don’t try to implement all these tips at once. It’s better to start with 1 or 2 you think will be easiest to incorporate into your life, then gradually make more modifications to your sleep habits as you become more comfortable with these changes.
Stay consistent to reap benefits that good sleep hygiene can bring. Just like you can’t expect to lose weight by exercising three or four times a month, you can’t expect to see results just by practicing these steps once or twice a week.
Stay persistent as undoing the effects of chronic sleep deprivation and poor sleep hygiene can take as long as several weeks for you to notice the impact of your new sleep habits. You may even notice poorer quality of sleep at first as your mind and body adjust to your new routine.
WHAT TO DO WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS
Consult your doctor if you still don’t notice improvements to your sleep after several weeks of effort.
Underlying physical and/or mental health problems, such as sleep apnea, acid reflux, depression, and anxiety may be at the root of your sleep issues.
Your healthcare provider can determine if a sleep study, blood work, or other diagnostic tests are appropriate.
The following infographic shows you how to get started in an easy, step-by-step fashion.
Lily Parker is the creator of SleepyBliss.com, a website dedicated to helping you improve the quality of your sleep through informational articles, product reviews, and useful tips. Find out how to get the best sleep you deserve and start loving sleep today!