6 Steps to a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep is when your body rejuvenates itself. During sleep, cells rebuild and the body repairs the damage you unknowingly inflict on it every day. A good night’s sleep is essential to overall health.
The occasional sleepless night doesn’t do any real harm. However, when you regularly get less than 7 to 9 hours of sleep, it starts to affect your health. Your immune system suffers, brain function is reduced, you gain weight, increase your risk of high blood pressure and other chronic illnesses, and even raise your risk of cancer.
If you have difficulty sleeping, these six proven tips help you get a good night’s sleep.
1. Wake at the Same Time Each Day
Your body knows what it wants and needs, and that includes sleep. Sometimes called your internal clock or circadian rhythm, your body has natural sleep-wake cycle.
It may take time to find your body’s sleep cycle. Once you do, though, you won’t need an alarm clock. When you get enough sleep, you wake naturally. The key to feeling more rested and energized is going to bed and waking at the same time every day.
If your schedule requires you to wake by a certain time, start getting ready for sleep around nine to 10 hours before you need to get up. If your schedule has more flexibility, find the time that your body naturally feels sleepy and make that your regular bed time.
When you’re up later than usual, break out the dreaded alarm clock and wake at your usual time. Then, take a power nap – no more than 15 to 20 minutes – in the early afternoon.
If you’re sleepy before your usual bed time, try performing a mildly stimulating task, such as loading the dishwasher. Going to bed too early interrupts your natural sleep cycle, too.
2. Soak in the Sunshine
Sunshine plays a large role in your circadian rhythm. When it’s dark, your body creates more of the sleep hormone, melatonin. It also creates less melatonin when it’s light, helping you feel awake and alert.
Modern lifestyles mean that many of us don’t get much exposure to sunlight, impacting our sleep cycle. You can increase your exposure to light without drastically altering your lifestyle.
- Go outside as close to waking as possible. Drink your coffee or eat breakfast outside or while sitting next to a sunny window.
- Flood your home or workspace with natural light; open curtains and blinds and place your chair or desk near a window.
- When it’s time for a break, go outside. Even a few minutes in the sunshine helps.
- Consider a light therapy box that simulates sunshine.
Limit light exposure in the evening to increase melatonin production.
- Turn off the electronics at least 90 minutes before bed. At the very least, minimize the brightness.
- Turn off the TV when it’s time for bed. If you need sound, listen to music or an ambient noise machine.
- Ditch the backlit e-reader or tablet and replace with a soft reading light.
- Keep your bedroom completely dark. You may need to cover devices that emit light or wear a sleep mask.
- If you need to move around at night, install dim nightlights in hallways and bathrooms.
3. Pay Attention to What You Eat and Drink
Start by cutting back on refined carbs and sugary foods. They’re not only bad for you, they inhibit restful sleep. You should also:
- Skip the nightcap. Alcohol leads to restless sleep.
- Cut back on all liquids within a couple hours of bedtime to reduce nighttime bathroom breaks.
- Avoid eating within two hours of bed time to avoid heartburn and upset stomach.
- Limit caffeinated drinks, which make sleep difficult for up to 12 hours.
- Stop smoking period, but especially close to bedtime. Nicotine is a stimulant.
4. Get Moving!
Regular exercise helps you sleep better at night – just don’t exercise too close to bed time. Over time, regular exercise helps your body spend more time in those deep sleep stages where your body restores itself.
The earlier you exercise, the better, since it increases your metabolism and energy. Try to work in your workout by early afternoon. If you still have trouble sleeping, shoot for a morning workout.
5. Create a Relaxing Environment
First, stop using your bedroom for anything but sleep and sex. This helps condition your brain to associate the bedroom with only those activities, making it easier to fall asleep.
Next, create a dark, quiet, cool sleep environment. Hang heavy curtains or blinds. If you live in a noisy area, use a fan or white noise machine. Cooler temperatures tell your brain to release melatonin, so lower the thermostat at night.
Finally, make sure your bed is comfortable. If your back or neck regularly feel sore in the morning, you might need a firmer mattress, foam topper, or better pillow.
6. Learn How to Unwind
A bedtime routine helps you unwind and prepares your brain for sleep. Ideas include:
- A warm bath both relaxes your body and cools it when you step out of tub, signaling melatonin production.
- Deep breathing techniques help you relax. Close your eyes and concentrate on breathing slowly, feeling the air enter and leave your body.
- Lie on your back with your eyes closed and progressively relax every muscle in your body. Start with your toes, first tensing the muscles as tightly as possible and then releasing that tension. Repeat with your calves, thighs, etc., until you reach the top of your head.
You can also try reading, journaling, and other non-stimulating activities.
It may take a month or more for some of these activities to make a noticeable difference. But, if you’re following these best practices and still can’t sleep, it’s time to talk to your doctor.
If you have questions about your Medicare plan, call us toll-free at 855-350-8101. One of our licensed agents can answer your questions and explain your options.