Grab some fuzzy socks and adjust the thermostat—things are about to get pretty cozy.
By Rose Hayes
From Beatles hits to the periodic table of elements, breakthroughs often come after a good night’s rest.
Studies suggest that getting enough hours of sleep improves your ability to store information and learn new tasks. One study even found that volunteers who slept for eight hours before completing a difficult test scored higher and discovered more creative solutions than those who stayed awake beforehand.
Adults should get seven-to-nine hours per night, but many fall short. That can affect more than your ability to think clearly—a chronic lack of sleep ups your odds of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Read on to learn how to get more of those precious Zzz’s!
Help yourself look forward to bed by creating a comfy, personalized sleep space.
Start by adding a simple step to your morning routine. According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, people who made their beds in the a.m. were 19 percent more likely to meet their nightly sleep needs.
Raising your thermostat when you wake up and lowering it to around 65° F before turning in can help also. Doing so supports your internal clock since temperature changes are a key part of your circadian rhythm, the biological processes that tell your body when it’s time to sleep. Keep temperature in mind when picking luxurious sheets and pajamas too—both shivering and sweating can prevent deep sleep.
A crazy schedule can mean having to squeeze in dinner or the gym late at night, but try changing your routine if you just can’t unwind afterwards. Intense workouts and heavy meals before bed can delay sleep onset. Hit the gym no later than two-to-three hours before bed. If you can’t stop thinking about the fridge, use these tips on how to stop nighttime snacking.
Before turning in, try taking a relaxing bath or using aromatherapy as well. When you step from the bath into cool air, your temperature drops, which promotes sleep. Aromatherapy may reduce stress and encourage deep, restorative sleep. In one study, pleasant scents like lavender even helped people have happier dreams.
There may be something to the old practice of keeping a hot water bottle at the foot of the bed. It turns out that people with toasty hands and feet fall asleep faster. The warmth causes the blood vessels in your hands and feet to dilate, called vasodilation. As blood flows into your fingers and toes, away from your body’s core, your core temperature drops, helping you drift off to sleep.
Plush socks, a hot water bottle—available for $10 and up in most drug stores—extra blankets or slippers can all do the trick.
Many caffeine lovers don’t realize that its effects can last up to six-to-eight hours. If you need coffee to make it through the day, it’s okay to wake up with it, but avoid it after lunch.
Post-work happy hours can disrupt your sleep too. Alcohol might make you sleepy at first, but you probably won’t reach deep sleep and you’re more likely to wake up during the night as its effects wear off.
Quitting tobacco is a smart decision for many reasons, including healthier sleep. Smokers tend to snooze lightly and wake up at the crack of dawn due to tobacco withdrawal.
Proper lighting is absolutely essential for restful sleep. Light waves send messages to your brain, signaling when it’s time to wake up and go to bed. If you’re a night shift worker, keep bright lights on at work and use blackout shades at home to reverse your natural cycle.
Fighting jet lag? Spend as much time as possible outdoors in the place you’re visiting. Exposure to natural lighting can help you adjust to the new time zone.
Remember that electronic devices like TVs, cell phones and laptops emit energizing blue lights, so disconnect a few hours before bed or adjust the light settings on your devices.
Many women—nearly 23 percent—report sleep problems and daytime drowsiness during PMS, 30 percent during their periods. Possible reasons include:
Sound familiar? Lifestyle changes may help. Exercising, eating healthy—instead of binging on the high fat foods that periods make you crave—and focusing on stress relief are the first steps. If symptoms persist, keep a sleep diary and show it to your OBGYN. He or she may recommend other lifestyle changes or adjust your birth control. Read more about how to ease PMS symptoms.
If you’ve tried everything and still can’t sleep through the night, keep a sleep journal for about a week. You can share it with your family doctor or sleep specialist to see if they notice any harmful patterns. You might realize that a simple tweak to your bedtime routine is all you need.
Consider seeing a sleep specialist if your journal reveals any of the following issues, which might indicate a sleep disorder:
Getting a good night's sleep does wonders for your health. But, what if you are having problems falling asleep? Insomnia, sleep apnea and snoring interfere with your ability to sleep through the night. Find out why you have a need ... for sleep and how to manage those sleep disorders. More