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Probably the easiest way to improve sleep is to:
- Sleep on a more regular schedule
- Reduce caffeine intake and stop drinking caffeine by about 2:30 PM each day
- Limit alcohol to 1 glass per evening (if that)
- Exercise daily
- Give yourself enough time to both fall asleep and stay asleep
You may say you want better sleep. Seems straightforward enough, doesn't it? Let's stop for a minute and be more specific. What do you really want? Do you want to sleep more hours? Do you want to go to bed earlier? Get up earlier? Sleep longer on weekdays? Sleep longer on weekends? Go to bed and stay asleep all night? There are many possible goals. To make sure you reach your true sleep goal, you must be specific about what you want. Then you need to be specific about what behaviors you need to change in order to reach that goal. Everything must be measurable and observable. "Better sleep" is not measurable or observable.
Goals such as sleeping through the night without waking up, sleeping for 8 hours, 5 nights a week, and going to bed at 9:30 P.M. are all specific, observable, and measurable actions. However, they are still a bit too general. How do you make the goal "sleep for 8 hours" as specific as possible?
Here's what we came up with:
- Get ready for bed at 8:00 P.M. by taking a warm bath.
- Wind down with a cup of decaffeinated tea.
- Read a book for 45 minutes.
- Go into the bedroom at approximately 9:15 P.M.
- Face the clock away from sight.
- Set the alarm for 5:45 A.M.
- Turn out the light.
- Allow 30 minutes to fall asleep.
These times and sleep routines may not fit exactly with your preferences, but the idea is to develop a detailed plan for what is necessary for you to reach your goal of sleeping for 8 hours.
Improving your sleep is not just important for your day-to-day quality of life; it is also important for maintaining your cardiovascular health. While severe sleep problems require guidance of a physician, there are things in general that one can do to improve more minor sleep problems. The tips below may help you to get higher quality sleep.
- Get to bed and wake up at consistent times, even on the weekend. You may find this is difficult to do, but keeping to a more consistent schedule will help your body know when to expect periods of sleep and wakefulness.
- Treat your bedroom as a sanctuary only used for sleep and sexual activity (if applicable). That means no TV in the bedroom, or even reading in bed, which can be too stimulating to promote sleep for some people.
- Make sure the temperature of the bedroom is comfortable enough to promote sleep. Many people find a slightly cooler environment is ideal, but find the temperature that works for you.
- Darken the room with blackout curtains to help promote longer sleep in the brightness of the early morning.
- Turn off electronics (phone, computer, television) and quit other stimulating activities several hours before bedtime.
- Exercise daily. It is best to exercise earlier in the day so your body is not over-stimulated too close to bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Avoid smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant and will affect your sleep.
- If you are having trouble sleeping, get up out of bed and try a relaxing activity.
- Try strategies for coping with stress. The following activities may help: mediation, stretches or yoga, reading in a room other than the bedroom, taking a warm bath, listening to relaxing music, writing in a journal, or writing down the things that are on your mind so you can put them aside until the morning.
Here are a few tips for better sleeping:
- Maintain a sleep routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. Do something you find peaceful and relaxing just before bedtime. This can include reading a book, listening to music, drawing or painting, breathing exercises or meditation. Preferably, do your peaceful activity outside of the bedroom.
- Disconnect. Turn off TVs and computers, and put down tablets and cell phones, two hours prior to going to bed.
- Limit caffeine, alcohol and nicotine consumption six hours before bedtime.
- Refrain from exercising in the four hours before going to sleep. The first signal that the body is ready to go to sleep is body temperature. Exercise raises body temperature, which also turns up the body’s metabolism.
- Say hello to the sunshine. Seeing natural light within 60 minutes of waking up helps set your body’s natural clock on the right course for the day. Try opening the blinds and curtains immediately upon getting out of bed and not wearing sunglasses during the morning commute, if possible.
- Scratch the nap. Being awake accumulates sleep debt, and taking a nap negates that debt. It may delay your natural sleep time that night.
- Make time for the sleep your body needs. Most adults need seven to nine hours to function properly.
- Leave a couple of hours between eating and going to bed.
- Make your bedroom all about sleep. A comfortable mattress, pillow and bedding will help you get a good night's sleep. Keep your room dark and use cool colors on the walls.
- Put your troubles aside. Keep a piece of paper and a pen next to your bed and write down any worries of the day before putting your head down to sleep.
Sleep medications may be helpful for some insomnia sufferers, but before you reach for the pills, consider some easy tips for better sleeping:
Evaluate your sleep hygiene. Avoid watching TV, eating, or working in bed. Make the bedroom a sanctuary for sleep. Keep the temperature a few degrees cooler than the rest of the house, and hide bedroom clocks so you're not constantly checking the time as you try to fall asleep. Try sticking to a sleep schedule and limiting naps or daytime sleeping.
Get active. Thirty minutes of exercise each day (at least 5 to 6 hours before bedtime) will help you get more restful sleep at night.
Avoid triggers. Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine or large meals before bedtime can disrupt your ability to fall asleep and remain asleep throughout the night. Though many people use alcohol to get to sleep initially, alcohol actually compromises the quality of sleep you get overnight.
Check your medications. Make sure they don't contain stimulants. Talk to your doctor about other options if you think your prescriptions are preventing you from getting good sleep.
Stressful life events also commonly trigger insomnia. If you think anxiety is the underlying problem behind your insomnia, relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, and deep breathing exercises may be helpful techniques to fight off tension at bedtime. Whatever the cause, insomnia can have devastating consequences on your health and quality of life. The key to relief is resolving the underlying cause.
Lack of sleep is costly, but there are ways to improve your sleep. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that costs associated with lack of sleep amount to $15.9 billion annually, with another $100 billion or more in indirect costs, such as litigation, property destruction, hospitalization and death resulting from sleep disorders and sleep deprivation.
But it’s the personal costs in quality of life that should concern you. Sleep may be the missing link in your health regimen. To keep you rested and ready, here are 10 ways to improve your chances for a good night’s sleep, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic:
- Make your sleep time at regular hours, even on weekends.
- Don’t eat or drink large amounts before sleep.
- Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol before bed.
- Exercise regularly.
- Make your sleeping area cool, dark, quiet and comfortable.
- Try to keep your sleep confined to the nighttime.
- Try to create a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Find a mattress and pillow that are truly comfortable for you.
- Go to bed when you’re tired. And keep the lights off.
- Use sleeping pills only as a last resort.
Try these tips to improve your sleep:
- Exercise regularly because it helps tire and relax your body.
- Do not drink caffeine after 4 p.m. or so. Other stimulants, like cigarettes, should be avoided as well.
- Avoid drinking alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol will disrupt the brain's normal patterns of sleep.
- Try to stay in a regular pattern with a regular bedtime and regular wake up time, even on weekends.
It may seem counterintuitive to have to work at getting a good night’s sleep, but sleep experts have found that good sleep habits, otherwise known as sleep hygiene, can improve your likelihood of enjoying healthy sleep.
- Stick to a sleep schedule.
- Use your bed only for sleeping and sexual activity.
- Don’t lie awake in bed for longer than twenty minutes.
- Decrease your caffeine intake.
- Reduce heavy use of caffeine gradually.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment.
- Avoid nicotine, alcohol, and heavy meals close to bedtime.
- Avoid strenuous exercise right before bedtime.
- Establish a regular, relaxing nighttime ritual.
To improve the quality of your sleep, you need to establish some good bedtime habits, says sleep medicine expert Dr. Carol Ash. Watch this video to learn how to get a better night's sleep.
Here are 10 tips for improving sleep:
- Reduce caffeine and nicotine, as these are both stimulants that will cause wakefulness. If you must have your coffee, try switching to decaffeinated or drink coffee (minimally) only earlier in the day. Remember that caffeine stays in your system for fourteen hours and is contained in some herbal teas, in most sodas, and in chocolate.
- Avoid going to bed either after eating a large meal (your body has to work to digest it) or on an empty stomach (hunger pains can keep you awake).
- Develop an end-of-day routine that includes calming, soothing activities that will help you wind down and prepare for sleep (such as taking a hot bath, reading a book, doing a relaxation or mindfulness exercise, or praying).
- Use your bed only for sleep (or sex). Don't engage in nonsleep-related activities like reading, watching television, talking on the phone, or working on your computer.
- Make sure that your bed is as comfortable as possible, your room is a comfortable temperature, and any light coming into your room from outside is minimal.
- Reduce the noise level in the house as much as possible, or use earplugs if necessary. If you share a bed with a partner who snores or disrupts your sleep in other ways (for example, tossing and turning, talking in his sleep), sleep in separate beds or make other arrangements that are agreeable to you both.
- Help slow or stop racing thoughts with mindfulness exercises, or help yourself relax with relaxation techniques.
- If you are unable to fall asleep after about thirty minutes, get out of bed and do something calming, such as reading a relaxing book or watching something calming on television. Avoid stimulating activities at this time, and return to bed when you are feeling tired.
- If you are wakeful throughout the night, turn your clock around, so you can't see what time it is. Watching the clock can provoke anxiety, especially when you have only a few more hours before you have to get up, and this makes it harder to fall back to sleep.
- Try not to put pressure on yourself to fall asleep. Simply accept that right now you are awake, and concentrate on doing an activity mindfully, in order to distract yourself from judgmental or distressing thoughts about not sleeping.
By avoiding the following, you can improve your sleep:
- Medications such as antidepressants and blood pressure, heart, and thyroid drugs. Research any drugs you take—including over-the-counter medications and supplements—to see if potential adverse effects include sleep difficulties, and discuss alternatives with your health care provider.
- Alcohol. Women metabolize alcohol less efficiently than men, and this difference becomes more pronounced as they grow older. Although alcohol initially is sedating, as it is broken down by the body it becomes a stimulant and can be responsible for us waking in the middle of the night.
- Caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that women metabolize less effectively as they age; even coffee, chocolate, soda, or tea at lunchtime can affect sleep at night. Caffeine is also present in some over-the-counter medications including the popular pain relievers Excedrin and Anacin.
- Smoking. Nicotine is also a stimulant.
Lifestyle changes may help improve sleep, including:
- Physical activity. Moderate exercise, particularly when it is done early in the day, may help you sleep better at night. Avoid exercising within three hours of going to bed, as this can have the opposite effect.
- Relaxation, massage, meditation, or other stress reduction techniques.
- Sunshine. Exposure to light during waking hours helps to set your body clock.
- Sleep hygiene techniques.
If you consume caffeine limit to one cup (8oz) in the morning.
Exercise regularly. Reduce strenuous exercise within 3 hours of bedtime.
Eat your dinner as early as possible. Stop consumption of all food within 2 hours of bedtime.
Calcium rich foods assist in preparing the body for sleep.
Give yourself down time to unwind. Step away form electronics and move into a relaxing environment.
Be consistant with the time you go to bed and the time you wake.
Sleep is easily one of the most underappreciated, and overlooked restorative functions of the human body. As a pain management specialist, several chronic pain disorders are further accentuated with a loss of proper sleep hygiene.
How can we improve our overall sleep patterns?
- Set a regular disciplined sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake at the same time daily, to allow your body to habituate this cycle. This allows your body to prepare for its restorative cycle and quickly begin to maximize your sleeping hours.
- Avoid all electronic devices 45 minutes before sleep. All too commonly, we are lying in bed with the TV on or with iPad in hand, but this does not allow for restorative sleep. Place all electronic devices away and allow yourself to "unwind" a bit, and your sleep will be far more restful.
- Avoid stimulants after 12 noon. That afternoon cup of joe may be the perfect pick me up, but it will disrupt your sleep. Eliminate all stimulants after noon, and by the time you are preparing for sleep, you will have metabolized and excreted the majority of these agents and their metabolites.
- The temperature of a room when sleeping is extremely important. We are all a bit different, but a typical recommendation is to keep the room between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lighting can adversely affect our sleeping patterns as well. Light disrupts our circadian rhythms and can inhibit the release of melatonin, which promotes more restful sleep. Another reason to stay away from those electronic devices before bedtime.
- Exercise too close to bedtime and you will stay awake! But trying to schedule a physical activity sometime in the day ( cardio being superior in this aspect ) will accelerate release of endorphins, and this baseline subclinical increase in levels should help sleep hygiene as well.
- Eating too close to bedtime forces your body to actively digest when it should be resting, this will almost certainly disrupt sleep. Try to eat lighter and earlier. Same for alcohol. Alcohol can cause maintenance insomnia. This means there is no problem falling asleep per se, but staying asleep is actually inhibited, and restlessness and insomnia ensue.
- Herbal Supplementation - If all else fails, I do not recommend running to a pharmaceutical sleep aid. Rather, if consider using herbal alternatives, such as melatonin, or my personal favorite, valerian root. Both agents have been shown to improve sleep hygiene.
The following tips can help you improve your sleep:
- Practice relaxation techniques at bedtime.
- Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
- Go to bed only when you're sleepy.
- Don't watch television or read in bed.
- Establish and maintain regular sleep and rise times.
- Don't nap more than 30 minutes per day.
- Reduce evening stimulants (caffeine, nicotine).
- Don't drink alcohol before going to bed.
- Do aerobic exercise daily, but not right before bedtime.
- Make sure the temperature in the bedroom is comfortably cool.
- If too much ambient light enters the bedroom, invest in an eye mask.
- If noises in the bedroom prevent sleep, try using ear plugs.
- If you are unable to fall asleep after 15 minutes, get up and go to another room. Only return to bed when you are sleepy.
Here are some suggestions for getting more restful sleep:
- Maintain a regular schedule. Establish consistent sleep and wake times.
- Keep your bedroom dark and quiet for sleeping.
- Use the bedroom only for sleep. Don’t watch TV, use a laptop/tablet or eat meals in bed.
- Talk with your doctor about adjusting the times you take any stimulating medications.
- Exercise regularly but not right before going to bed. Daily exercise can help your body, mind and sleep. Consider taking walks in your neighborhood or visiting your local gym.
- Be careful about napping. If you must nap, limit it to less than one hour and earlier in the day.
- Avoid caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine can stay in the body for several hours, disrupting sleep at night.
- Watch your alcohol consumption, too. While it can make you feel sleepy initially, it interferes with deeper sleep.
- Eat your last big meal of the day and limit drinking liquids a few hours before bedtime.
- Avoid going to bed upset. Try to take care of your problems during the day and let go of what remains at night.
Follow these simple steps for a good night’s sleep and a healthier life.
You don't have to make drastic changes to see positive results in your sleep patterns. Take control by committing to a few bedroom basics: Keep chores like laundry folding out of the bedroom; leave entertainment in the living room by removing the bedroom TV; and attempt to retire for the evening 30 minutes before your typical bedtime. By moving your bedtime from 10 to 9:30, you're giving your mind and body a chance to unwind before it shuts down entirely. Keep the bedroom exclusively for what it's meant for -- sleep and sex.
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.