Do you how crucial sleep is to your health and well-being? There is a mountain of evidence to support what sleep experts have been saying all along - if you don't get your 7+ hours a night, not only will suffer physical, mental and emotional difficulties, but you are at greater risk for fatal accidents and heart attack!
Everyone wants to get a good night sleep for a reason - we feel amazing, look fantastic and function at our best when we are well rested, but wanting a good night's sleep and getting it are two different things. Here are a few basis tips from the experts to help you get your vitamin Z!
1. Make Sleep a Priority
Forget the idea that your sleep hours can be cashed in for an extra hour at the gym or more study time. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has made the official recommendation that adults of working age should get at least seven hours sleep each night (click here to see sleep recommendations for all ages). Poor sleep is damaging to your waistline, disrupts your emotional well-being, places stress on your relationships, prematurely ages you, makes you bad at your job, makes your kids bad at school and puts you at greater risk for colds and flu. Giving up your sleep to reach other goals just isn't worth it in the long run!
You have to make a decision to make sleep part of your overall health plan and stick to it. If you are ready to that, keep reading and get ready to make changes that will improve the quality of your life!
2. Tune Out and Turn Off
The number one rule for getting a good night sleep is to refrain from doing anything in bed besides sleeping and making love. This means no watching tv, no reading, no talking on the phone, no internet surfing and no working in bed. According to the Sleep Health Foundation not only should you refrain from doing these things in bed, but you should refrain from doing anything stimulating one hour before bedtime. Additionally, if you find yourself unable to sleep after 10-15 minutes, get out of bed and return when you are sleep enough to try again. If you practice behaving this way in bed you will soon find that your body and mind associate bed with restful sleep and just getting into bed will send the signal that it is time for bed.
3. Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold - Just Right
According to Dr. Eus van Someren of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience temperature is extremely important to sleep quality and while studies show that a room temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit seems to be optimal, personal preference is a factor, so sleepers should adjust accordingly by layering until the perfect skin temperature for you is achieved. If you sleep with a partner, that could further complicate things, so consider a split mattress and lots of light layered bedding so that everyone can find their own personal perfect temperature.
4. Reduce Allergens
Indoor and outdoor allergies can wreak havoc on your sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation allergy sufferers also commonly experience sleep problems. To help reduce sleep problems associated with allergies follow these tips:
- Take allergy medication suggested by your doctor.
- Use hypoallergenic bedding, such as a silk pillowcase.
- Wash bedding often.
- Do not wear shoes in the house.
- Put dirty clothes in a closed hamper.
- Keep windows closed.
- Keep pets out of the bedroom.
- Use an air filtration system.
- Wash your hair at night.
5. Mood Lighting
These days it is hard to escape digital screens. Where ever we turn we will probably have a TV, cell phone, tablets, laptop, portable game player, MP3 player or digital watch in our line of sight. Unfortunately studies have shown that the blue light emitted from these devices has a detrimental effect on our ability to sleep. Turns out blue light disrupts our circadian rhythms, our internal body clock that signals our body to pump out melatonin when it gets dark outside, preparing our bodies for sleep.
Here are tips to help you get that mood light right:
- Replace your bedroom bulbs with warm toned bulbs, preferably ones that can be dimmed.
- If you cannot turn off blue light emitting devices an hour before bed, try reducing the brightness and look into getting a blue light blocking filter.
- Get plenty of sunlight during the day and stay away from bright lights at night.
- Consider melatonin therapy if you have difficulties during the time change or with jet-lag while traveling. Just know that melatonin is not a sleep aid, it is a synthetic version of hormone your body produces.
6. Create a Comfortable Sleeping Environment
Your bedroom should be your sleeping sanctuary. The Better Sleep Council has a extensive list of ways you can create a calming bedroom, including:
- Keep your bedroom clean and organized.
- Use neutral, calming colors for you bedroom decor.
- Consider a white noise sound generator (a fan will do) to drown out sounds.
- Make sure your mattress is in good shape.
- Keep temperature at 65 Fahrenheit at night.
- Create a low light environment with warm toned bulbs.
Advice from The National Sleep Foundation, Sleep experts recommend exercising no more than three hours before bedtime, "The best time is usually late afternoon. Exercising at this time is beneficial because body temperature is related to sleep. Body temperatures rise during exercise and take as long as 6 hours to begin to drop. Because cooler body temperatures are associated with sleep onset, it’s important to allow the body time to cool off before sleep."
8. Eat Right
When we talk about sleep problems, we often talk about what is done close to bedtime that disrupts sleep, but did you know what you do during the day, many hours before bedtime, also has an effect on your sleep? Caffeine can keep some sleepers up 10-12 hours after consumption, but the general rule of thumb for sleeping experts is to stop all caffeine consumption at least 6 hours before bed, including chocolate and decaffeinated drinks. Additionally nicotine and spicy foods can disrupt a good night's sleep as well as eating too close to bedtime. Restrict eating to 3 hours before bedtime and if you must have a snack, pick a small one high in carbohydrates, like fruit. The carbs can help you off to slumber land.
9. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
This one may actually be the most important. Have you heard of social jet lag? Basically, when you get up and go to bed at a certain time during the week and then sleep in/stay up late on the weekend, you suffer from social jet lag early in the work week. It's why Monday's are pure hell and we don't feel right until Wednesday - we can't get to sleep on time because we have messed with our sleep schedule and we become overtired for it. Not only does social jet lag make us drag in the beginning of the week, but it is also associated with weight gain!