As you likely already know, getting a good night’s sleep is critical in helping to ensure that you are alert and ready to start the day each morning. In fact, not only does sleeping well ensure that your body is refueled for the coming day, but sleep quality and/or lack of sleep has also been linked to health. Multiple studies have shown that poor sleep quality, and not getting enough hours of sleep, are directly associated with increased risks of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. This makes it important that you get good sleep each night in order to maintain your physical, mental, and emotional health.
However, you are not alone if you have sleep complaints or your sleep patterns are poor, or if you struggle to get enough sleep each night. In fact, it is estimated that over a quarter of Americans develop insomnia each year. While increases in sleep disorders have often been linked with the stresses caused by our fast-paced society, poor sleep hygiene is often to blame as well. It is then important that you work to develop healthy sleep habits in order to ensure that you are doing everything within your power to improve your sleep quality. If you have been struggling to get deep, plentiful sleep each night, here is a look at a few sleeping habits that you should try to adopt.
Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Consistency is key when trying to maintain a healthy sleep cycle, which is why you must try to stick to the same sleep time schedule each day. While it is not uncommon for people to go to sleep and wake up at different times each day, particularly on the weekends when you might try to “catch up” on sleep, this is one of the worst things that you can do. Going to bed, and waking up, at the same time each day will help to reinforce your body’s internal clock and natural sleep cycle, making it easier to fall asleep at a reasonable time each night. As tempting as it may be to stay up late, and sleep in late on the weekends, this could be contributing to your sleep disturbances.
Keep Naps Short
It is not uncommon for people with insomnia to be tempted to take naps during the day. The fact is that if you were unable to sleep at night, taking a nap may seem like the only way you will make it through the day. However, taking naps can throw off your biological clock, making it harder for you to fall asleep when you need to at night. If you find that you really need a nap, limit your period of sleep for naps to less than 30 minutes so that they don’t make it hard for you to sleep later. Additionally, while it may be tempting to snooze on the couch while watching TV, try not to nap too close to your bedtime, as this will go a long way in helping you to fall asleep easily when you get in bed.
Make Sure to Exercise
While it is recommended that all adults exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, making sure that you get enough physical activity is particularly important if you suffer from insomnia. Studies have shown that doing rigorous physical activities during the day helps to tire you out, helping you to fall asleep faster at night and get deeper, more restful sleep. However, exercising will give you a burst of energy, so it is important that you do not work out too close to bedtime. Give yourself at least 2 hours between when you exercise and when you plan on going to sleep.
Watch What You Eat and Drink
Believe it or not, the things that you eat and drink can affect your sleep quality. Eating nutritious meals can help to promote deeper, more restful hour of sleep. Additionally, you want to make sure that you do not eat a heavy or large meal too close to bedtime, as your discomfort could keep you awake or cause non-REM sleep. It is generally best to avoid large meals within two hours of your bedtime. However, a small snack before bed can actually help to promote sleep.
You should also avoid consuming liquids an hour or two before bed, as needing to use the restroom can make it difficult to fall, and stay, asleep. You should also refrain from drinking too much alcohol. While alcohol is a sedative, and it can make it easier for you to fall asleep, alcohol prevents deep sleep, and it can cause you to wake up repeatedly throughout the stages of sleep during the night. If you suffer from insomnia, it is best to avoid alcohol for at least 5 hours before bed.
Use Your Bedroom for Sleep Only
One of the biggest causes of insomnia is people using their beds for things other than sleep. While many of us find it fun or relaxing to watch TV, read the newspaper, or even take work calls in bed, this is not good for your sleep hygiene. The problem is that when you do anything other than sleep in your bedroom, your brain starts to associate your bed with these other activities. In particular, working in your bedroom can cause you to associate your bed with stress, making it more difficult to relax at night. When you dedicate your bedroom solely to sleeping, this helps your body to associate this space with sleep, making it easier to fall asleep as soon as you get in bed allowing for better hours of bedtime.
Create Healthy Sleep Routine
Oftentimes, falling asleep is about training your mind to make the right associations allowing for a healthy sleep routine. It can then be helpful to get in the habit of creating a relaxing bedtime routine that you stick to each night. Doing the same things each night as you are getting ready for bedtime can help to alert your body that it is time to go to sleep, which can make it much easier to fall asleep once you get in bed. Your pre-sleep routine should be relaxing so that your body knows it is time to sleep and releases melatonin. Taking a bath, reading a book, or listening to music can all help to set the right mood and help get your mind and body ready for bed creating a healthy sleep routine.
Getting a good night’s sleep doesn’t have to be impossible; the right habits can help to ensure that you wake up feeling refreshed each morning. However, if you have a particularly difficult time getting to sleep, you should ask yourself whether your mattress may be to blame. If you are sleeping on an old, worn-out mattress, contact us to learn how investing in a new mattress could help you get a good night’s sleep.