It turns out that not getting a good night’s sleep isn’t just an annoyance when you can’t stay awake at work the next day or start barking at the kids. The inability to access peaceful slumber can be a serious hindrance to your health and, by extension, that of your family’s, creating any or all of these symptoms: irritability, memory problems, depression, accidents through inattention.
The good news is there are tried and true methods that should help you learn to sleep better. There’s a good chance that changing a few simple behaviors might yield great results.
Your issue might even be connected to an underlying physiological or medical problem, so if none of these tips seem to be helping, you might want to consider seeing a doctor.
Here are realistic tips for a better sleep.
Take It Off
Researchers at the Cleveland Sleep Clinic have revealed that your best bet for restful slumber is to do it naked. The reasoning is sound. Sleeping clothes throw off your body’s ability to regulate its temperature. We didn’t come into this world wearing pajamas, so there’s no reason to think that’s the best way. Use blankets and sheets as needed to keep yourself comfortable.
Other tips related to this include:
- Unless it’s too cold, sleep with arms/head outside the sheet/blanket
- Keep an extra blanket nearby in case you get cold during the night
- If you absolutely can’t sleep naked, loose cotton pajamas are the next best choice; it’s the most breathable fabric
Don’t Caffeinate Yourself Before Bed
We humans love to employ a variety of stimulants that are almost guaranteed to interrupt the possibility of a good night’s sleep. In particular, we’re talking about caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Avoid all three — are you ready for it? — a full 4 – 6 hours prior to bedtime.
Caffeine can be sneaky. Besides soft drinks, remember it also hides in coffee, tea, chocolate, and some pain relievers.
Why does alcohol make the list? It’s true that, in the short term, it might put you to sleep, but begins to act more like a stimulant the longer it’s in your system. Imbibe too much and you can short-circuit your chances of getting a night of restful sleep.
Create a Restful Environment
In general, a quiet, dark, cool room creates the best sleeping environment. Let’s take each factor in turn:
- Quiet: Our modern world never sleeps or stops making noise — if you have the misfortune of a noisy natural environment, try earplugs or some sort of white noise generator.
- Dark: Light is a powerful genetic clue to the brain that it’s time to wake up — if you’re not in a dark space, you’ve got little hope of good sleep. If necessary, hang dark curtains on windows or even try a sleep mask.
- Cool: Harvard researchers suggest the room temperature for best sleep is between 60-75 degrees, which might seem on the cool side to some folks. Again, it’s a signal to your body: time to rest
Find a Routine
It’s a good idea to spend the last hour before bed engaged in calm, soothing activities like reading, watching television (although some people have problems with the light), or low key relaxation exercises. Anything that creates physical or psychological stress is a bad idea. Work or dealing with emotional issues doesn’t help. If you like to take your problems to bed with you and wrestle with them all night, try writing them down instead, so you won’t forget, and deal with them in the morning.
The 20 Minute Rule
Trying to force yourself to fall asleep may be one of the most frustrating activities around. If you haven’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something else until you feel tired, then try again.
Go to another room. Read, listen to music, or watch infomercials. That last option should do the trick eventually!
Staring at the clock while worrying about how tired you will be in the morning creates the kind of stress that makes it almost impossible to sleep. Break the cycle!
Do you have an unpredictable schedule? Not good. For the best sleep, your body needs consistency.
Get up and go to bed at the same time every day, or at least with no more than a 1 hour variance. This primes the body to “expect” sleep at a certain time.
Once trained, it will help you stick to the routine by making you sleepy as your bedtime approaches. While the temptation to sleep in or party until the wee hours on weekends might be tempting, realize that the price to be paid is a sleep hangover that will likely have you hating yourself and trudging to work on Monday.
Pay attention to when you undertake certain daily activities. Napping, exercising, and eating at the wrong time can keep you awake later. Here are some guidelines:
- Naps: Early afternoon at the latest and NEVER in the early evening unless you like insomnia.
- Exercise: Never sooner than three hours before bed. Earlier in the day is better.
- Eating: That double-bacon cheeseburger at 10 pm will likely have you tossing and turning for hours as your body tries to process it. Light, early evening meals are better.
The bottom line is that you should never accept poor sleep as simply your lot in life. Bad sleep can have a terrible effect on your quality of life. Try these suggestions. If none of them work, get yourself to a doctor for an evaluation. Sleep apnea and other treatable conditions might be the underlying problem.