Hit the farmers' market. Hit the gym. Hit the…hay? Like many people, you probably plan for healthful eating and regular exercise. But what about sleep? Food, activity, and sleep all impact our well-being, yet some people may still think of sleep as a luxury rather than a necessity.
Remember, sleep is vital for both mental and physical health. Sleep deprivation can interfere with self-control, as well as our ability to make decisions and solve problems, and it has been linked to depression and other mental health issues, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Lack of sleep may also wreak havoc on our bodies. Experts say it can increase the risk of obesity and may impair our bodies' defenses against infection, for example.
For even the most dedicated person, sleepiness may reduce motivation to cook or take a walk. And if you're the kind of person who may get a bit grumpy when sleepy, everyday stressors may become much harder to handle.
Sleep is vital for both mental and physical health
If sound slumber is just your dream and not your reality, read on for some of TeamingUp's techniques for better sleep.
1 Stick to a regular schedule
According to the National Sleep Foundation, getting to bed and waking up at the same times each day of the week may be your most important sleep habit.
2 Establish a bedtime routine
Try ending the evening with a cup of decaf tea. You might like soaking in a relaxing bath, reading a book, chatting with your spouse, listening to soothing music, spending time in meditation or prayer, or practicing yoga. Follow the same routine each night to prepare yourself for sleep.
3 Avoid caffeine & alcohol
TeamingUp recommends avoiding stimulants like caffeine, which can be found in coffee, certain teas, and chocolate, a few hours before bedtime. If you choose to drink alcohol, be aware that its effects may be deceptive; while it may make a person sleepy initially, it may wake them up later in the night. (Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider or nutritionist about a healthy eating plan that is right for you.)
4 Consider an earlier dinner
Don't let an active or noisy stomach steal your sleep. Give your body a chance to digest your meal.
5 Turn off the lights, TV, and computer
Watching TV right before bed may make sleep more difficult, especially if the shows are violent or agitating, says the National Sleep Foundation. Too much light of any kind may prevent a good night’s sleep. Light stimulates a part of the brain involved in controlling body temperature and the release of hormones, including cortisol and melatonin, which affect our feelings of sleepiness or wakefulness. If you wake in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, avoid turning on bright lights. Instead, use a low illumination nightlight.
Nurture your body’s natural sleep patterns by spending time in the sunlight each day. If you don’t want to wake up with the sun, draw blackout curtains to block its early morning rays from entering your bedroom. If you work shifts, consider using a light box or light visor to supplement your exposure to natural light.
7 Get a move on
Research shows that regular exercise is linked to both longer sleep and better sleep quality. Remember to talk to your healthcare provider before you begin or add to any physical activity program.
8 Cool it
A hot room may cause you to sleep lightly and wake frequently.
9 Silence is golden
Too much or unpleasant noise may have you tossing and turning. Use earplugs to block out your partner’s snoring or your neighbor's music. If they aren’t enough, try blocking noise with a fan or look into buying a white noise machine.
10 Check you blood sugar
If you're waking frequently to use the bathroom, high blood sugar may be the culprit. Low blood sugar may also disturb slumber with fitful sleep or nightmares. Nighttime low blood sugar can be very serious. Talk to your healthcare provider if you need help controlling your blood sugar.
11 Put yourself back to sleep
Instead of watching the clock and fretting about not sleeping, try relaxation or breathing exercises. If these don't work, get up and try another relaxing activity, such as listening to music or reading, until you feel sleepy again.
Let's hope that our tips will put some of your sleeplessness to bed. So the next time you face a night when counting sheep is something you just can’t count on anymore, try one of these tips. Remember, if your problem is ongoing, seek help from your healthcare team. Now, go to bed.