Trouble sleeping? You’re not alone. Thirty-five percent of American adults report getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep a night. A lack of sleep can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, arthritis, and other serious health problems. Between the demands of a full-time job, raising a family, enjoying social activities, or pursuing hobbies, it’s important to give your body the rest it needs.
At AltaMed, we know that nothing’s more frustrating than a night of tossing a turning, so we’ve created a list of 10 easy tips to help get a better, longer rest. Read on and sleep tight!
1. Put the Phone Down
It may be tempting to check your phone one more time before going to sleep, but the blue light that our devices emit will trick your body into staying awake. Because this light is similar to the natural daylight we experience while being awake, our bodies stop producing sleeping hormones when we scroll through our phones late at night. Doctors recommend putting your gadgets away at least a half hour before bedtime.
2. Wash Your Sheets
Washing your sheets once per week has been proven to increase sleep quality, according the National Sleep Foundation. Over time, our beds collect dead skin, sweat, and other irritants, which can trigger our senses and keep us awake. Be sure to clean other bedding frequently as well.
3. Say No to Late Night Snacks
Eating shortly before going to bed will keep you up and may result in worse sleep quality. It’s best to stop eating at least two hours before you plan to go to hit the hay. If you are hungry, limit portion size and avoid snacks with added sugar.
4. Check the Thermostat
Ever notice that it can be more difficult to sleep during hot, summer months? This is because temperature has a profound impact in our ability to fall asleep, even more so than loud or distracting noises. Doctors recommend keeping your room at a comfortable 70 or so degrees for optimal sleeping conditions.
5. Stick to a Schedule
Our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm, meaning we tend to wake up around sunrise and get tired after sunset. Studies have shown that people who do not follow consistent bedtimes report poorer sleep quality. Creating and following a set 7 or 8 hour sleep pattern will help you fall asleep faster.
6. Relax Your Mind
It can be tougher to fall asleep when our bodies experience stress. Rather than lay awake and worrying, try writing down a “to do” list of everything you need to accomplish the next day. Organizing your thoughts will help your mind and body relax.
7. Try Exercising - Just Not at Night
Exercise is one of the best ways to prepare your body for a good night’s sleep. This is because physical activity can tire the body out, leading to an increase of hormones such as melatonin that helps cause sleepiness. One study showed that older adults who exercised regularly fell asleep 55% faster and slept for about 40 minutes longer. However, exercising too close to bedtime can keep your brain stimulated and overly-alert, so aim for morning or midday activity.
8. Cut Back on Caffeine
If you drink coffee every morning for a boost of energy, be sure to limit yourself to one or two cups. Caffeine stimulates the body’s nervous system for up to 12 hours, meaning a 3:00pm coffee break can lead to a restless night. If you need a boost of energy in the afternoon, try a healthy snack such as nuts or fruit instead.
9. Stay Out of Bed
That’s right. Sleep experts actually recommend staying out of bed unless the purpose is to go to sleep or have sex. If you spend hours laying down and watching TV, using your phone, or reading, the brain begins to associate the bed with being awake, rather than getting rest. This can make it harder to fall asleep.
Even in the ideal sleep setting, it can still take time to settle our brains and fall asleep. Try this exercise, created by the Arizona Center for Integrated Medicine, to help your body relax:
- Close your eyes and inhale slowly through your nose for 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds.
Continue to do this until you fall asleep.
Sleep On It
By following these suggestions, you’ll be on the path to a better night’s sleep! Remember, sleep deprivation can sometimes be a symptom of more serious medical conditions. If you or a loved one experiences continued insomnia without relief, talk to a doctor. Visit AltaMed.org to find a location, make an appointment, and learn more.