You can tell when you’ve had a good night’s sleep. You wake up refreshed, full of energy, and ready to tackle the day. Sleep is essential for both your physical and mental wellbeing.
It plays an important role in memory, mood, judgment, reflexes, decision-making and your ability to learn new things. It also affects your performance at work and your ability to do everyday tasks like driving. In addition, lack of sleep has been linked to an increased risk for a range of health problems including obesity, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, damage to your immune system, and depression.
But many people aren’t sleeping enough. According to statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 Americans do not get the recommended 7 to 8 hours a night on a regular basis. The situation gets more
complicated when you factor in the quality of sleep. People who have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting into deep sleep (REM sleep) can face the same problems as people who don’t get enough sleep each night.
Proactive Steps to Help You Get the Sleep You Need
The first step is setting the stage for a good night’s sleep by practicing what’s called good sleep hygiene. That means:
Sleep in a cool, dark room
And if you can afford it, invest in a more comfortable mattress and pillows.
Keep cell phones, tablets, computers, and TVs out of your bedroom.
Stick to a schedule
Go to bed and get up at close to the same time every day, including weekends.
Avoid big meals, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol
Cut out the late dinners, coffee, cigarettes and drinks in the hours leading up to bedtime.
Exercise during the day
Get exercise during the day (but not right before bed; which has been associated with difficulty falling asleep for some people).
4 More Strategies to Fall Asleep More Quickly, and Stay Asleep Better
Adopt a relaxing bedtime routine
Think about what makes you feel relaxed and make that part of your nighttime routine, whether it’s a warm bath or shower, time spent reading, a cup of caffeine-free tea, or a brief session of meditation or breathing exercises.
Eat a small snack rich in tryptophan
This amino acid promotes sleepiness, so about half an hour before bed eat a small snack that includes tryptophan-rich foods such as turkey, seeds and nuts, eggs, or milk.
Limit naps during the day
When you’re tired, you may be tempted to take a nap. But for adults, naps longer than 20 minutes can interfere with nighttime sleep.
Get enough exposure to daylight
Getting at least a little exposure to daylight each day helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle and promotes better sleep. On the flip side, it can be helpful to avoid bright artificial light and the blue light that electronic devices emit in the one to two-hour period leading up to bedtime, because the light can signal to your body that it’s day and increase wakefulness.
Still Having Trouble Getting a Good Night’s Sleep?
Rather than lying in bed worrying about your sleeplessness, get up, leave your bedroom, and try a relaxing activity like listening to calming music or reading. You could also try progressive relaxation. Starting with your toes, tense the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax them. Work your way up from your toes to the top of your head. If you frequently have trouble sleeping, make an appointment with your primary care physician who can help you uncover the underlying causes for your sleep problems.
More Physical Fitness Topics
- Effects of Shift Work on Sleep
- Healthy Food Choices
- Adding Aerobic Fitness to Your Exercise Regimen
- 4 Ways to Tame Stress
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