Sleep matters...


This is just an article I found on the net on getting a good night's sleep. I'm gonna try out some of the recommendations in this article.


Tips for Getting Better Sleep

HOW TO SLEEP WELL EVERY NIGHT

Tips for a Good Night's Sleep


Do you have trouble falling asleep or do you toss and turn in the middle of the night? Do you wake up too early or find yourself feeling unrefreshed in the morning? If so, you're not alone: millions of people struggle with falling and staying asleep. But by learning how to avoid common pitfalls that get in the way of sleep and adopting a few sleep-inducing techniques, you can start to enjoy restful, quality sleep. Developing a bedtime routine, creating a better sleep environment, managing stress and anxiety, following a sleep schedule, and taking better care of your body all set the stage for getting quality rest every night.

How much sleep do I need?

Read Understanding Sleep for more information on sleep needs and cycles.
Do you have a realistic idea of how much sleep you need? A general guideline for adults is 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Older adults need a similar amount, but the sleep may be lighter and may include a brief nap during the day. If you are consistently waking up groggy and exhausted, that's a signal that you may need to up your sleep intake. If you've been sleep deprived, it may take a few days of heavier sleeping before you can get a sense of your average sleep needs.

What happens when you don't get enough sleep

With a packed schedule, trying to squeeze as many hours of possible into the day is sorely tempting. However, when you continuously don't get the amount of sleep you need, you begin to pay for it in many ways:
  • Impaired mood, memory, and concentration. When you don't get enough sleep, you're less productive, not more. Lack of sleep affects your ability to concentrate and remember things. What's more, it makes you irritable and cranky. As a result, you're social and decision-making skills suffer>
  • Dampened immune system. Without adequate sleep, the immune system becomes weak, making you more vulnerable to colds, flu, and other infections and diseases. And if you get sick, it takes you longer to recover.
  • Increased risk of accidents. Did you know that driving while seriously sleep deprived is similar to driving while drunk? The lack of motor coordination associated with sleep deprivation also makes you more susceptible to falls and injury.

Getting better sleep tip 1: Create a better sleep environment

If you think you're getting enough sleep, but you have trouble waking up in the morning, struggle with daytime sleepiness, or feel tired and cranky despite clocking plenty of hours in bed, you may not be getting enough of the deep restorative sleep your body needs. In order to deepen your sleep and minimize disruptions during the night, you may need to make some changes to your sleep environment.

Your bed

  • Is your bed large enough? You should have enough room to stretch and turn comfortably, including with a bedmate present.
  • Your mattress, pillows, and bedding. Waking up with a cramp in your back or a sore neck? Experiment with different levels of mattress firmness, foam toppers or egg crate toppers, and pillows that provide more support.

Your room

  • Better Sleep Tip 1: Create a better sleep environmentKeep the noise level down. Too much noise—loud outside conversations, televisions blaring, music, traffic—can make it difficult to sleep well. If outside noise can't be blocked, try masking it with a fan, white noise, or recordings of soothing sounds. Earplugs may also help.
  • Keep your room dark during sleep hours. When it's time to sleep, make sure that your environment is dark. Even dim lights—especially those from TV or computer screens—can confuse the body clock. Heavy shades can help block light from windows, or you can try an eye mask to cover your eyes.
  • Room temperature and ventilation. If you can, experiment with the room temperature. Most people sleep best in a slightly cooler room with adequate ventilation. Check your windows and doors to make sure that drafts are not interfering with sleep.
  • Reserve your bed for sleeping. If you associate your bed with events like work or errands, it will only make it harder to wind down at night. Use your bed only for sleep and sex.

Getting better sleep tip 2: Develop a relaxing bedtime routine

Even with the stresses of daily life, if you make an effort to relax and wind down before bed, you will sleep easier and more deeply. A consistent, relaxing routine before bed sends a signal to your brain that it is time to wind down, making it easier to fall asleep. Make the time before sleep a time of peace and quiet, and find your unique routine that relaxes you.

To prepare for sleep, try

  • Reading a light, entertaining book or magazine
  • Listening to soft music
  • Making simple preparations for the next day
  • A light bedtime snack, a cup of hot tea, or a glass of warm milk
  • Hobbies such as knitting or jigsaw puzzles
  • Listening to books on tape


Television

Many people use the television to fall asleep or relax at the end of the day. You may even have a television in your bedroom. However, television actually stimulates the mind, rather than relaxing it:
  • Late night news or prime time shows frequently have disturbing, violent material. Even non-violent programming can have commercials which are jarring and louder than the actual program.
  • Light and noise. The continuous flickering light coming from the TV (or a computer screen) can interfere with the body's clock, which is sensitive to any light. Television is also noisy, which can disturb sleep if the set is accidentally left on.
You may be so used to falling asleep with the TV that you have trouble without it. Although the first few days might be difficult, the payoff is better sleep in the long run. If you miss the noise, try turning on soft music or a fan. If your favorite show is on late at night, record it for viewing earlier in the day.

Getting better sleep tip 3: Get stress and anxiety under control

Do you find yourself unable to sleep or waking up night after night? Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well. When you wake up or can't get to sleep, take note of what seems to be the recurring theme. That will help you figure out what you need to do to get your stress and anger under control during the day:
  • If you can't stop yourself from worrying, especially about things outside your control, take steps to learn how to manage your thoughts. For example, you can reframe why worrying is harmful rather than helpful and practice replacing worrying with more productive thoughts. Read: How to Stop Worrying: Self-Help for Anxiety Relief
  • If the stress of managing work, family, or school is keeping you awake, you need help with stress management. By learning how to manage your time effectively, handle stress in a productive way, and maintain a calm, positive outlook, you'll be able to sleep better at night. Read: Stress Management: How to Reduce, Prevent, and Cope with Stress
  • If you wake up frustrated and angry with loved ones or colleagues—rehashing arguments over and over—you may need help managing your anger. Even if you later scoff at yourself for these thoughts, don't be too quick to dismiss them. It may mean you have feelings of anger under the surface that needs to be addressed. Read: Anger Management: Tips and Techniques for Getting Anger Under Control

Relaxation techniques for better sleep

Relaxation is beneficial for everyone, but especially for those struggling with sleep. Practicing relaxation techniques before bed is a great way to wind down, calm the mind, and prepare for sleep. Some simple relaxation techniques include:
  • Deep breathing. Close your eyes—and try taking deep, slow breaths—making each breath even deeper than the last.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation. Starting at your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Work your way up from your feet to the top of your head.
  • Visualizing a peaceful, restful place. Close your eyes and imagine a place or activity that is calming and peaceful for you. Concentrate on how relaxed this place or activity makes you feel.

Getting better sleep tip 4: Learn how to get back to sleep

Better Sleep Tip 3: Learn how to get back to sleepIt's normal to wake briefly during the night. In fact, a good sleeper won't even remember it. But if you're waking up during the night and having trouble falling back asleep, the following tips may help.

Getting back to sleep

  • Stay relaxed: The key to getting back to bed is continuing to cue your body for sleep. Some relaxation techniques, such as visualization and meditation, can be done without even getting out of bed. The time-honored technique of "counting sheep" works by engaging the brain in a repetitive, non-stimulating activity, helping you wind down.
  • Do a quiet, non-stimulating activity: If you've been awake for more than 15 minutes, try getting out of bed and doing a quiet activity. Keep the lights dim so as not to cue your body clock that it's time to wake up. A light snack or herbal tea might help relax you, but be careful not to eat so much that your body begins to expect a meal at that time of the day.
  • Don't stress about it: Hard as it may be, try not to stress over an inability to fall asleep again, because that very stress and anxiety encourages your body to stay awake. Remind yourself that although it's not a replacement for sleep, rest and relaxation still can help rejuvenate your body. Concentrate on relaxation, not sleep.

Sleep medications can get in the way of better sleep

If only sleeplessness could be completely cured by a simple pill! There are certainly plenty of over-the-counter sleep aids and prescription sleeping pills. However, they aren't meant for long-term use. Sleep medications can cause side effects and even rebound insomnia, where your sleep ends up worse than before. If you must take a sleep aid, work carefully with your healthcare professional. And remember that good sleeping habits have more of an impact than medication.
Read Sleeping Pills, Sleep Aids and Medications: What You Need to Know

Getting better sleep tip 5: Optimize your sleep schedule

Make sure you are not going to bed too early

What do you do after a long, hard day, when you're barely able to stay awake during dinner? Do you crawl into bed as soon as you can or fall asleep on the couch, only to wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep? Your body goes through cycles of alertness and drowsiness later in the day as your bedtime nears. So even if you are sleepy early in the evening, do something mildly stimulating to prevent yourself from falling asleep at that time, like doing dishes or getting clothes ready for the next day. If you push though that window, you'll catch your second wind soon and be able to stay awake until your normal bedtime—and sleep through the night.

Set a regular bedtime

Time of day serves as a powerful cue to your body clock that it is time to sleep and awaken. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, and it will be easier and easier to fall asleep. Make your bedtime when you are normally feel tired, so that you don't toss and turn. Try not to break this routine on weekends when it may be tempting to stay up late or sleep in. If you want to change your bedtime, help your body adjust by making the change in small daily increments, such as 15 minutes earlier or later each day.

Limit napping

Napping can interfere with sleepPerhaps the English had the right idea in having teatime in the late afternoon when you naturally get sleepy. Some people, especially older adults, can take a short afternoon nap and still sleep well at night. However, if you are having trouble sleeping at night, try to eliminate napping. If you must nap, do it in the early afternoon, and sleep no longer than about thirty minutes.

Getting better sleep tip 6: Improve your diet

Taking care of your body can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep. You'll sleep more deeply if you watch what you eat before bed and exercise regularly.

Eating right for sleep

A rich, hearty dinner, topped off with a big slice of chocolate cake might seem like the perfect way to end the day, but it's wise to avoid eating a large meal within two hours of bed. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods as bedtime snacks.

Light snacks for bedtime

Light snacks for bedtimeA light snack before bed can help promote sleep. When you pair tryptophan-containing foods with carbohydrates, it helps calms the brain and allows you to sleep better. For even better sleep, try adding extra calcium to your dinner or nighttime snack. Experiment with your food habits to determine your optimum evening meals and snacks.
Sample bedtime snacks to help you sleep:
  • Glass of warm milk and half a turkey or peanut butter sandwich
  • Whole-grain, low-sugar cereal or granola with low-fat milk or yogurt
  • A banana and a cup of hot chamomile tea

Substances and eating habits that can interfere with sleep

  • Too much food, especially fatty, rich food. These take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and may keep you up. Spicy or acidic foods in the evening can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.
  • Too much liquid. Drinking lots of fluid may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night.
  • Alcohol. Many people think that a nightcap before bed will help them sleep. While it may make you fall asleep faster, alcohol reduces your sleep quality, waking you up later in the night. To avoid this effect, so stay away from alcohol in the hours before bed.
  • Caffeine. You might be surprised to know that caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it! Consider eliminating caffeine after lunch or cutting back your overall intake.
  • Smoking. Smoking causes sleep troubles in numerous ways. Nicotine is a stimulant, which disrupts sleep. Additionally, smokers actually experience nicotine withdrawal as the night progresses, making it hard to sleep.

Getting better sleep tip 7: Get regular exercise

Aside from many other wonderful mental and physical health benefits, regular exercise can also make it easier to fall asleep and sleep better. You don't have to be a star athlete to reap the benefits—as little as twenty to thirty minutes of activity helps. And you don't need to do all thirty minutes in one session. You can break it up into five minutes here, ten minutes there, and still get the benefits. A brisk walk, a bicycle ride or a run is time well spent.
However, be sure to schedule your exercise in the morning or early afternoon. Exercising too late in the day actually stimulates the body, raising its temperature. That's the opposite of what you want near bedtime, because a cooler body temperature is associated with sleep. Don't feel glued to the couch in the evening, though. Exercise such as relaxation yoga or simple stretching shouldn't hurt.
Hate to exercise? Check out Making Exercise Fun

Related articles

Insomnia Causes, Cures and TreatmentsInsomnia Causes, Cures and Treatments
What to Do When You Can't Sleep
Understanding SleepUnderstanding Sleep
Deep Sleep, REM Sleep, Cycles, Stages, and Needs


More Helpguide Articles:

References and Resources– Tips for a Good Night's Sleep

Healthy Sleep Tips – A variety of sleep tips including bedtime snacks, exercise, room temperature, noise, and light control. (National Sleep Foundation)
Sleep Hygiene: Helpful Hints to Help You Sleep – More tips for getting better sleep. (University of Maryland Medical Center)

Sleep environment

Sleeping Easier with Back Pain – Tips for a more comfortable mattress and pillows, (WebMD)

Foods that help you sleep

Tryptophan – In-depth information about the effects of tryptophan and a nutrient rating system chart with tryptophan amounts in various food types. (The George Mateljan Foundation)

Exercise and sleep

Television and sleep

Children's Media Use and Sleep Problems – While this issue brief discusses research primarily towards children, it outlines many of the key concerns with television and sleep. (Kaiser Foundation)
Joanna Saisan, MSW, Robert Segal, M.A., and Suzanne Barston contributed to this article. Last reviewed: January 2010
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