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Striking a balance between our work lives and personal lives, of course, is the key to better sleep. So is managing stress, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, and keeping our digital devices out of the bedroom and our nighttime routines. No, finding balance is not always easy. But your sleep and your health will benefit.
Remember my 5 steps to better sleep and better balance:
- Stick to 1 sleep schedule, even on weekends
- Eliminate caffeine after 2pm
- Stop alcohol 3 hours before bed
- Stop exercise 4 hours before bed
- Get 15 minutes of sunshine every morning
Here are some recommendations for improving your sleep:
- Relax for at least one hour before going to bed.
- Allow the mind and body to relax (for example, by meditating).
- Go to bed only when sleepy.
- Get out of bed if you are unable to sleep.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule.
- Reserve the bed and bedroom for sleep and sex.
- Try not to sleep during the day. However, short naps (from 10 to 30 minutes) may be helpful energy boosters for many people and do not usually interfere with nighttime sleep.
- Avoid heavy meals before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, particularly in the evening.
- Get regular exercise, but avoid it just before bedtime.
Try these helpful suggestions:
•Get up at the same time every day.
•Go to bed only when sleepy.
•Establish relaxing pre-sleep rituals such as a warm bath, light snack, or meditation.
•Confine vigorous exercise to at least six hours before bedtime, and do mild exercise - such as simple stretching or walking - at least four hours prior to bedtime.
•Keep a regular schedule. Regular times for meals, medications, chores, and other activities help keep our “inner clock” running smoothly.
•Avoid caffeine within six hours of bedtime.
•Don't drink alcohol, especially when sleepy. Even a small dose of alcohol can have a potent effect when combined with tiredness.
•Tobacco is a stimulant. Avoid smoking, especially close to bedtime.
•Try to avoid napping, but if the urge to sleep is irresistible, try napping at the same time every day; mid-afternoon is the best time for most people. Limit naps to 20 minutes.
•Avoid sleeping pills, or use them conservatively. Most doctors avoid prescribing sleeping pills for periods longer than three weeks. Do not drink alcohol while taking sleeping pills.
Adequate rest and quality sleep, along with good nutrition and regular physical activity, are part of any formula for fitness. Consider these tips for the "rest" of your life:
- If you're caffeine-sensitive, avoid caffeinated drinks six to eight hours before bedtime. For meals and snacks later in the day, opt for milk, juice, water or decaffeinated drinks.
- A glass of wine or other alcoholic drinks won't help you sleep well. A drink might help you feel drowsy at first, but even if you sip a drink two or three hours before bedtime, your sleep might be light instead of the deep, most restful kind of sleep pattern.
- Promote rest through regular physical activity. Being active actually helps your body relax and sleep soundly. Just refrain from exercise too close to bedtime.
While the amount of sleep necessary for proper functioning varies for each individual, most people should aim for seven to eight hours a night. To make sure that you're getting this amount, avoid factors that can disrupt your snooze session, like drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, vigorously exercising, arguing with a partner or using electronics during the couple of hours before bedtime. You may also want to avoid large or spicy meals and foods containing caffeine (think chocolate) near bedtime.
Instead, establish a soothing routine like taking a bath or doing some relaxation exercises, like meditation or gentle yoga.
These tips should help you sleep better at night:
- Try to go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.
- Do not take naps after 3 p.m.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day or at night.
- Get regular exercise. If you exercise during the day make sure it is at least 5 to 6 hours before bedtime.
- Make sure you eat dinner at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask. If noise is a problem, try earplugs, a fan, or a "white noise" machine to cover up the sounds.
- Follow a routine to help relax and wind down before sleep, such as reading a book, listening to music, or taking a bath.
- If you can't fall asleep within 20 minutes or don't feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not too active until you feel sleepy. Then try going back to bed.
- If you lay awake worrying about things, try making a to-do list before you go to bed.
- Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
See your doctor if you think that you have insomnia or another sleep problem.
This answer is based on source information from National Women's Health Information Center.
Alter your sleep by following the tips below.
- What is my current bedtime ritual? Does it enhance the quality of my sleep?
- How much sleep do I need to feel refreshed each day?
- If I am sleep deprived, am I ready to change my habits?
- "A magnificent healing process occurs within me as I sleep."
- a bedroom makeover that focuses on creating a nurturing, peaceful environment
- a warm bath before retiring
- a "media curfew" one half hour before bedtime
There are several small habits that you can tweak to improve your sleep. One of the most beneficial things for sleep is increasing the amount of exercise you have in your daily life. Some other habits to adjust are things such as going to bed and waking up at the same time, even if it is your day off, and avoiding watching TV or reading in bed. Afternoon naps and caffeine can also contribute to difficulty sleeping, so avoidance of these is another way to improve upon your sleep cycle.
It might help to add more "physical stillness” to your day. Take a walk without checking your cell phone or electronics. Grab your brown bag lunch and sit outside under a shady tree. Grab a 15 minute cup of tea and write in a journal. Go out in the late afternoon and garden a bit.
If you engage in calming activities during your waking hours, you may be more likely to relax, fall asleep and have a more peaceful sleep experience. You can also try meditation or soaking in a warm bath before going to sleep. Most sleep experts recommend a period of winding down in the hours before bedtime.
To sleep well, start by committing to a certain number of hours (six to eight at least -- whatever feels best) per night. Start making a commitment for one to two days a week. If 10:00 pm will be bedtime rather than midnight, be realistic about it. An hour before bedtime, you need to start shutting down and removing stimulants in your environment. Turn off the TV, hang up the phone, get off the computer, log out of Facebook -- you get the idea. Then do something to prepare yourself for quality sleep, like reading a book or taking a hot bath. Work yourself up to following this pattern most nights of the week. And remember that you shouldn't have caffeine after lunchtime. Caffeine's effects can last up to ten hours and cause insomnia. Treat yourself to nice pillows, soft sheets, and plush textures. Your bed is your sanctuary, so make it a pleasure to go there.
Try this ZZZ-hygiene program to get you snoozing like a 19-year-old cat. Do these steps before you head to bed:
- Finish any must-do tasks (even if it's just making a list of what you need to do tomorrow) to avoid stress-related tossing and turning.
- Take care of your nighttime hygiene (brush, floss, wash behind your ears).
- Spend a few minutes doing deep breathing and/or meditation.
- And avoid anything too stimulating, such as watching TV or working out. We know what you're thinking: What about sex? Sex, though stimulatory (we hope), is okay. In fact, it's recommended.
I have taught several people how to sleep. The process is a bit involved, but can be relaxed once you are sleeping more easily.
- You must get up at the same time every day. That means no sleeping in on weekends. If you get up at 6 a.m. to go to work, you have to get up at 6 a.m. on Saturday, even if you came home at 2 a.m. Friday night.
- Do not nap. If you want to learn to sleep at night, you do not want your body to sleep during the day. Also, if you push through the day without much rest, you will be more likely to fall asleep at night.
- Do not do anything in your bed but sleep. This means no reading, eating, watching TV, or arguing. Take it elsewhere. Like Pavlov's dogs, you want to pair your bed with sleep so it happens automatically.
- Ensure that you have a comfortable sleep environment free of allergens and distractions. Your bedroom should be dark and cool. Make sure your bed is comfortable according to your personal preferences.
- If you are not sleeping, get out of bed! You want to pair your bed with sleep, so lying in bed awake is counter-productive. Participate in quiet, soothing activities, returning to bed the moment you start to feel sleepy. Housework is likely too strenuous. Only read things that you are willing to walk away from, even in the middle of a sentence.
- Start preparing yourself for bed 4-6 hours before you intend to sleep by turning off the TV and computer; avoiding heavy, spicy, or sugary foods; and keeping strenuous activities to a minimum.
- Avoid nicotine and alcohol all together, as neither will help you sleep or sleep well. When you indulge in alcohol, you do not progress in to the deepest levels of the sleep cycle.
- Turn off all computers and televisions. Both screens have a strobe light effect that can be stimulating to your brain, keeping you awake. Many people like to sleep with a television turned on; however, your brain cannot fully rest because it continues to process what it is hearing from the television, even while you are asleep!
White noise, dairy products, and even counting sheep can also be helpful when learning to sleep. If you are not sleeping well, take your physical and mental health into your own hands by teaching yourself to sleep using these tips.
Many people have trouble getting enough sleep. Watch this video by Dr. Oz to learn the first important steps you can take to getting a better night's sleep.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.