Seven Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
A good night of restful sleep is the foundation for a productive day, but, more importantly, it is also essential for optimal health. Sleep is absolutely critical for healing injuries and fighting off infections, so getting a full night of sleep should be a high priority.
If you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, you can take steps to make your sleep more restful. Some of these tips may take some time before they begin to reveal their benefits, but given enough time and investment, they should prove quite effective.
Sleep Is Critical for Good Health
You know how bad you feel when you don’t get enough sleep, but you may be underestimating the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on your health. One study revealed that sleeping only 5 hours a night for 4 consecutive nights had the same effect as a blood alcohol content of 0.06. The effects include slowed thinking and reaction times as well as impaired decision making.
Lack of sleep also has been linked to several chronic health conditions. Long-term sleep deprivation can elevate the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. It has also been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease; some experts believe that ongoing sleep loss can create a toxic environment in the brain.
How Much Sleep Is Enough?
Everyone is different so the amount of sleep needed to feel refreshed will depend on the person. This will also change over time as children will need more sleep than adults, and seniors typically need less sleep than younger adults. In general, most adults will require from 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.
However, the number of hours you sleep shouldn’t be the only metric you apply. You should grade your sleep on how restful it is and how refreshed you feel the next day. If you get a full night of sleep but you do not feel rested, you may need to examine how you sleep.
For example, if you get up often at night and have difficulty falling asleep, you are probably not getting as many hours of sleep as you need. If you can identify the causes of these disruptions, e.g., snoring partner, chronic pain condition, then you may be able modify your sleep so that it is less disruptive.
Other issues that may be diminishing your sleep quality include
- Bad quality bed—if the mattress or pillow you are using is uncomfortable for any reason, then you should replace it.
- Sleep apnea—some people stop breathing for short periods of time while asleep. It may take a sleep specialist to diagnose this issue and make some recommendations to remedy it.
- Outside interference—if you live in an area that is bright or noisy at night, then your sleep may be disrupted, even without you noticing.
- Lack of deep sleep—you may be sleeping enough hours, but you may not be spending enough time in the restful, deep, or REM sleep that your body needs to fully recover.
Most Successful Improved Sleep Recommendations
- Sleep schedule—it can be extremely difficult to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, but if you can make it a habit, your sleep should be greatly improved. You should allot yourself at least 7.5 or 8 hours of sleep every night. When your bedtime arrives, make sure that you are in bed and prepared to sleep. By setting a rigid sleep schedule, you are training your body to sleep at the appropriate times. If your work schedule permits it try to go to bed when it is dark and wake when the sun is shining; your natural circadian rhythm is more likely to synchronize with this pattern.
- Watch what you eat and drink—in the hours before bedtime, you should avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine that can continue to affect you for hours after use. Also avoid alcohol which can make you drowsy immediately after use, but which can disrupt sleep later in the night. If you must eat, choose a light snack as a heavy meal can produce gastrointestinal discomfort. Also you should stay away from foods that may cause heartburn which can keep you up later than you would like.
- Don’t nap—many people nap during the day without realizing how disruptive they can be to their circadian rhythm. If you must rest during the day, limit your naps to less than an hour so that you don’t fall into deep sleep. You also don’t want to nap too close to your bedtime; the optimal time to nap is just after lunch in the early afternoon.
- Exercise regularly—if you can, try to engage in vigorous physical activity daily. This should help tire you out when you are in bed as well as help relax your body and mind. Habitual exercise can also elevate your mood and provide stress relief that should make it easier to fall asleep. You should avoid strenuous exercise immediately before bedtime as this can raise your alertness level; if you want to exercise, try low impact stretching or meditation.
- Avoid bright lights—your mammalian brain is attuned to be alert in bright light, so you want to avoid intense lights from phones, computers, and televisions in the hour before bedtime. Bright lights inhibit the production of a hormonal sleep aid melatonin.
- Make your bedroom comfortable—your body temperature should rise and fall, with it peaking in the evening and falling as you sleep. You should modify your thermostat so that you are at a comfortable temperature while you are trying to sleep. Keep your lighting low and remove any distractions like TV or laptops.
- Take care with sleep aids—many people try to overcome insomnia with over-the-counter sleep medications, but it is easy to develop a tolerance to them or become dependent on them. Discuss your sleep issues with your physician who may recommend a sleep specialist.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees. The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship. Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA, and you should not post any of your private health information.