Get the Sleep You Need
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-third of U.S. adults routinely sleep fewer than seven hours a night. That’s bad news because the benefits of adequate sleep range from better heart health and less stress to better memory and weight loss.
Stop loading up on caffeine or sneaking naps and use our top tips to help get the shut-eye you need to manage your health.
- Develop a Sleep Routine
It might seem tempting, but sleeping until noon on Saturday will only disrupt your biological clock and cause more sleep problems. Going to bed at the same time every night–even on weekends–helps set your internal sleep-wake clock and reduces the amount of tossing and turning required to fall asleep.
- Move It!
Researchers in Northwestern University’s Department of Neurobiology and Physiology reported that sedentary adults who got aerobic exercise four times a week improved their sleep quality from poor to good. These former couch potatoes also reported fewer depressive symptoms, more vitality, and less sleepiness in the daytime. Be sure to wrap up your workout several hours before bedtime so that you’re not too revved-up to get a good night’s sleep.
- Change Your Diet
Cut out the food and drinks that contain caffeine—such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate—by late afternoon. Make dinner your lightest meal and finish it a few hours before bedtime. Skip spicy or heavy foods, which can keep you awake with heartburn or indigestion.
- Don’t Smoke
A study found that smokers are four times more likely not to feel as well rested after a night’s sleep than nonsmokers are. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine attribute this to the stimulative effect of nicotine and the nighttime withdrawal from it. Smoking also exacerbates sleep apnea and other breathing disorders which make it difficult to get restful sleep.
- Say “No” to a Nightcap
Alcohol disrupts the pattern of sleep and brainwaves that help you feel refreshed in the morning. A martini may help you doze off initially, but research in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research shows that once it wears off, you’re likely to wake up and have a hard time getting back to sleep.
- Become a Luddite an Hour Before Bedtime
A National Sleep Foundation (NSF) survey found that nearly all participants used some type of electronics like a television, computer, video game or cell phone within the hour before bed. That’s a bad idea. Light from these devices stimulates the brain, making it harder to wind down for sleep. Put your gadgets away an hour before bedtime to fall asleep quicker and sleep more soundly.
- Hog the Bed
A study performed by Mayo Clinic’s Dr. John Shepard found that 53 percent of pet owners who sleep with their pets experience sleep disruption every night. More than 80 percent of adults who sleep with children have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Kids and dogs are the biggest bed hogs and some of the worst sleepers. Both deserve their own sleeping space—and you deserve yours. Make kids and dogs sleep in their own beds.
- Keep It Temperate, Not Tropical
Eighty degrees may be great for the beach, but it’s lousy for the bedroom. A temperate room is more conducive to sleeping than a tropical one. The NSF recommends a temperature between 54 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Striking a balance between the thermostat, the bed covers, and your sleeping attire will reduce your core body temperature and help you drift off to sleep.
- Go For a Black-Out
Light tells your brain that it’s time to wake up, so make your room as dark as possible for sleep. A recent study from The Ohio State University in Columbus found that even a small amount of ambient light from your cell phone or computer can disrupt the production of melatonin and overall sleep.
- Make Your Bed a Restricted Area
Your bed should be associated with sleep and sex—not work, food, or TV. If you wake up during the night, skip turning on your computer or TV and do something soothing like meditating or reading until you feel sleepy again.