Scientists studying sleep are still working out what exactly goes on in our brains during our nightly shut-eye. But we do know that getting sufficient high-quality sleep is important. Inadequate sleep has been tied to higher risks of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other maladies. And just as important, we have all experienced the fatigue, emotional lability, and mental fogginess that come with not getting enough Zzzzzzz’s.
But getting sufficient sleep is easier said than done. I can relate with many of my patients in sometimes finding it difficult to get and stay asleep. Here are some evidenced-based tips for getting the sleep you need.
Keep a consistent bedtime and wake-time. Our bodies get used to going to bed and getting up at certain times. Disrupting this internal rhythm, by excessive napping, staying up late, or sleeping in is a recipe for insomnia.
Avoid caffeine after noon. The stimulatory effects of caffeine stay in your system several hours after intake.
Get regular exercise. Studies show that exercise improves sleep quality.
Keep your bedroom cool. Our bodies’ temperature decreases when we sleep. A cool sleep environment mimics this activity.
Take time to calm your mind before bed. Dedicate 30-60 minutes before bedtime to something that relaxes you. A warm bath, a pleasurable novel, meditation, etc. Doing this will not only help you get to sleep, but improve your sleep quality. Avoid bright lights from your computer, phone, or television since this simulates the activating effect of the sun.
Don’t clock-watch. If you get up during the night, avoid looking at what time it is. This will likely cause anxiety about how much time you have left to get the sleep you need. Revving up your system with such thoughts will make it even harder to get back to sleep. So hide your alarm clock in a drawer or cover it with a book.
Limit alcohol before bedtime. Although alcohol may help you get to sleep, it impairs sleep quality and makes you more likely to wake up during the night.
Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
Use your bed only for sleep and sex. You want to condition your mind to associate your bed with sleep, not reading, thinking, talking, and other activities.
If you wake up during the night and can’t go back to sleep, get up and do something relaxing. Don’t try to fight your way back into unconsciousness.