Adults on average, need around 7 – 9 hours of sleep at night. Of course this can vary from person to person, but many adults are not getting enough sleep. Are you one of them? Did you know not getting enough sleep could cause you to be more clumsy, make mistakes at work, fall asleep at the wheel, gain more weight, be more depressed and lose some cognitive functioning? Well, now you do! And I’m going to help you get more sleep, so you do not have to worry about those things.
There are people who are just busy and feel they do not have time to sleep. For those of you, I would encourage you to try and make time! This post is more for those of you who are making time for sleep, but are having trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep.
Some basic information about sleep
I did want to mention a little bit about sleep basics. None of us sleep totally through the night. We all have partial awakenings when we switch through sleep cycles. For the most part, we will wake, fix our pillow or roll over, and go right back to sleep. Sometimes people can fall asleep at night, but then have trouble falling back asleep when they have these partial awakenings. This is common if you use something like the television to go to sleep at night, but then it is not on in the middle of the night.
Our bodies do have natural sleep windows, which are our natural times to sleep and be awake. We do get more restorative sleep when we sleep on our sleep cycle.
And now on to what we can do to get better sleep . . .
Here are some basic tips to get better sleep:
1. Make your sleep environment conducive to sleep
While you cannot make yourself sleep, you can make your environment conducive to sleep. This means your bedroom should be a dark, fairly quiet, cool place to be. You can use white noise if you have trouble sleeping. It gives the brain something to focus on and will hopefully stop some of the other thoughts that go on when you are trying to sleep. (This is one tip I keep meaning to implement – I do a lot of blog post writing while I am trying to fall asleep!) Sleeping temperature should be around 68 – 72 degrees. Having a comfortable bed with comfortable sheets is a help too!
2. Get out in the sunshine daily
Sunlight signals are body that it is time to be awake and darkness signals our body that it is time to be asleep. Getting out in the sunlight during the day (especially early in the morning) helps you to be more awake during the day, and thus can help you sleep better at night.
3. Dim the lights in your house about an hour before bed
Bright lights inhibit the production of melatonin, a calming hormone which helps you sleep. Darkness is a signal to your body to begin producing this hormone.
4. Turn off electronics before bed
This is similar to dimming the lights before bed. Lights from electronics inhibit the production of melatonin.
5. Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day
Our bodies do better with a pretty consistent schedule. If your schedule does vary, try not to let it vary by too much if at all possible.
6. Have a relaxing bedtime routine
No, bedtime routines are not just for children. Doing the same thing every night before bed signals your body that it is almost time to sleep. You can take a warm bath, read a book, or listen to some calming music.
7. Eat sleep conducive foods before bed
Do you get sleepy after eating turkey on Thanksgiving? Turkey contains Tryptophan, an amino acid which helps your body produce serotonin, a chemical that is responsible for maintaining a healthy sleep cycle. Now if you do not want to eat Thanksgiving dinner every night, there are other foods that contain Tryptophan and can help you sleep better. Chicken, seafood and red meat also contain Tryptophan. Dairy products, nuts, and legumes are other sources of Tryptophan and are probably a better choice for a before bed snack. New research has said that drinking Tart Cherry Juice before bed can help you sleep better and I have at least one friend who tried it and said it helps.
8. Avoid foods that are not good for sleep
While there are foods that are helpful for sleep, there are also foods that can hinder your sleep. Anything containing caffeine is a no – no before bed. Be aware of hidden caffeine in food containing chocolate, sodas (some flavors of Orange and Root Beer contain caffeine, others do not). Some people react differently to caffeine. If you are having a lot of trouble falling asleep, you may want to cut back your caffeine and not drink any after lunch. If you are still having trouble, try skipping a few days of caffeine to see if that helps you sleep. Do not drink too much of anything before bed as it may cause you to have to wake up and go to the bathroom during the night. Also, alcohol does not help you sleep and you should avoid it before bed if you are having trouble sleeping.
9. Exercise during the day
If you have chronic insomnia, unfortunately exercising will not begin to help you sleep until you have been exercising for about 4 months. However, it is still a good thing to do during the day and you might as well start now!
10. Take care of any medical conditions that may be causing sleep difficulties.
Do you snore? That can be a sign of a medical condition that can be causing you to not sleep well. Check out this comprehensive article on snoring – Snoring 101. Also be sure to check any medications you may be taking to see if they can be interfering with your sleep.
Do you have other thoughts on how to get good sleep? Feel free to share!
by Michelle Winters
SleepWell Sleep Solutions