Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

You’ve heard it said, “There aren’t enough hours in the day.” Hyper-productivity at the cost of all else is becoming an epidemic, and the inevitable trade-off is that most people aren’t coming anywhere close to the 7 to 9 hours of sleep recommended by sleep experts. The consequences of sleep deprivation range from short-term, such as the inability to make smart choices on a daily basis, to serious long-term health risks such as heart problems, diabetes, obesity, and a shortened lifespan. Fortunately, sleep deprivation can often be successfully remedied by making the right changes in your daily routine.

Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule.

Setting regular times for getting into bed and waking up in the morning is a good first step to promoting sleep welfare. Try not to fall into the habit of disturbing this routine on weekends. Going to bed early and getting up early has been demonstrated to have greater health benefits in the long run.

Take Short Naps.

The benefits of a short siesta have been well documented by sleep specialists (the key here is short). Taking just a few minutes for an afternoon snooze can be greatly helpful in combating sleep deprivation, and it becomes easier to fall asleep quicker with a little bit of practice. On the other hand, long naps (over half an hour) can be detrimental for chronic insomniacs. Ten to twenty minutes is an ideal length.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeinated Beverages.

While that nightcap might seem like a good way to take the edge off a stressful day, alcohol interferes with the REM sleep stage and can leave you feeling even more exhausted the next morning. Additionally, other diuretic beverages such as cola and coffee cause frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom.

Change Your Exercise Routine.

Exercise has many benefits, and getting a good night’s rest is one of them. However, sleep specialists recommend avoiding exertion right before bed because exercise causes your body temperature to rise and prevents the release of melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone. Early morning or afternoon is the ideal time for a trip to the gym.

Don’t Watch Television Before Bed.

Watching stimulating TV programs or playing computer games before bed can hinder the natural production of melatonin as well as cause restless dreams throughout the night. Instead, try winding down with relaxation techniques such as deep breathing.

Create a Sleep-friendly Environment.

Use heavy drapes, particularly in the summer when the sun sets later and rises earlier. Closing the window every night before bed can be helpful in filtering out bothersome noise. Adjusting the temperature in the bedroom might be necessary to avoid waking up feeling too hot or too cold. Finding just the right comforter and pillow can make all the difference – often, waking up with a headache is an indicator that you’re using the wrong pillow.

Watch What You Eat.

Eating too much before bed, particularly high-fat foods, can detract from a good night’s rest. Likewise, eating too little can be just as much of a distraction. Small amounts of food and drink, such as a glass of milk or a sandwich, can be helpful in offsetting nighttime hunger. Fish, bananas, and other foods containing vitamin B6, an important ingredient in the production of serotonin, are especially recommended.

Establishing just the right routine can take some time, as old habits are difficult to break. But don’t give up – the rewards of learning how to get a good night’s sleep will last a lifetime.