Set yourself up to get a good night’s sleep.
We all have trouble sleeping from time to time. But you can make it easier to get a good night’s sleep every night with these simple steps.
- Cut caffeine. Simply put, caffeine can keep you awake. It can stay in your body longer than you might think – the effects of caffeine can take as long as eight hours to wear off. So if you drink a cup of coffee in the afternoon and are still tossing at night, caffeine might be the reason. Cutting out caffeine at least four to six hours before bedtime can help you fall asleep easier.
- Avoid alcohol as a sleep aid. Alcohol may initially help you fall asleep, but it also causes disturbances in sleep resulting in less restful sleep. An alcohol drink before bedtime may make it more likely that you will wake up during the night.
- Relax before bedtime. Stress not only makes you miserable, it wreaks havoc on your sleep. Develop some kind of pre-sleep ritual to break the connection between all the day’s stress and bedtime. These rituals can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as an hour.
Some people find relief in making a list of all the stressors of the day, along with a plan to deal with them this can act as “closure” to the day. Combining this with a period of relaxation perhaps by reading something light, meditating, aromatherapy, light stretching, or taking a hot bath can also help you get better sleep. And don’t look at the clock! That “tick-tock” will just tick you off.
- Exercise at the right time for you. Regular exercise can help you get a good night’s sleep. The timing and intensity of exercise seems to play a key role in its effects on sleep. If you are the type of person who gets energized or becomes more alert after exercise, it may be best not to exercise in the evening. Regular exercise in the morning even can help relieve insomnia, according to a study.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and comfortable. For many people, even the slightest noise or light can disturb sleep like the purring of a cat or the light from your laptop or TV. Use earplugs, window blinds or curtains, and an electric blanket or air conditioner everything possible to create an ideal sleep environment. And don’t use the overhead light if you need to get up at night; use a small night-light instead. Ideal room temperatures for sleeping are between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures above 75 or below about 54 can disrupt sleep.
- Eat right, sleep tight. Try not to go to bed hungry, but avoid heavy meals before bedtime. An over-full belly can keep you up. Some foods can help, though. Milk contains tryptophan, which is a sleep-promoting substance. Other foods that may help promote sleep include tuna, halibut, pumpkin, artichokes, avocados, almonds, eggs, bok choy, peaches, walnuts, apricots, oats, asparagus, potatoes, buckwheat, and bananas.
Also, try not to drink fluids after 8 p.m. This can keep you from having to get up to use the bathroom during the night.
- Restrict nicotine. Having a smoke before bed — although it feels relaxing actually puts a stimulant into your bloodstream. The effects of nicotine are similar to those of caffeine. Nicotine can keep you up and awaken you at night. It should be avoided particularly near bedtime and if you wake up in the middle of the night.
- Avoid napping. Napping can only make matters worse if you usually have problems falling asleep. If you do nap, keep it short. A brief 15-20-minute snooze about eight hours after you get up in the morning can actually be rejuvenating.
- Keep pets off the bed. Does your pet sleep with you? This, too, may cause you to awaken during the night, either from allergies or pet movements. Fido and Fluffy might be better off on the floor than on your sheets.
- Avoid watching TV, eating, and discussing emotional issues in bed. The bed should be used for sleep and sex only. If not, you can end up associating the bed with distracting activities that could make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
SOURCES: Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine, Kryger, Meir, et al., Fourth Edition, 2005. Sleep: “Excessive Daytime Sleepiness and risk of Occupational Injuries in Non-shift Daytime Workers,” Vol. no. 3. Sleep: “Dose-response Relationship Between Sleep Duration and Human Psychomotor Vigilance and Subjective Awareness,” Vol. 22, No. 2. Sleep: “We Are Chronically Sleep Deprived,” Vol. 18 No. 10.
If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping, it’s probably because you’re doing it all wrong.
While you can’t fall asleep on demand, you can control every move leading up to the point when you shut your eyes.
“It’s good to start a wind-down routine around the same time every day,” says Nitun Verma, MD, California-based physician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep spokesperson. “You can’t force yourself to sleep but you can control the hour or so before you go to bed, so that’s what you should focus on.” Follow Verma’s itinerary to get the best possible night’s sleep:
Last call for coffee! Caffeine is the enemy of sleep. Make your last Starbucks run for tea or coffee by mid-afternoon to reduce the risk of sleeplessness.
2 Hours Before Bedtime
Hang out in a chill place besides your bedroom. “The only two things people should do in bed is have sex and sleep,” Verma says. That means watching TV or online shopping from bed, and even reading is a no-no once you’re tucked into bed.
Turn down the TV and music volume. It will decrease noise stimulation that can wind you up.
Switch from overhead lights to lamplight. Light is the most important factor in managing your sleep schedule, Verma says. Use low-wattage yellow light bulbs instead of high-wattage white lights.
Reduce the brightness on your iPhone, iPad, TV, or computer screen. Screens emanate white light with blue light waves that keep you awake by sending signals through receptors in the eye to parts of the brain that regulate the sleep-wake cycle. This revs up your brain into a state of alertness at a time when you should be winding down.
Take your last bites of any spicy or sugary foods. Spicy foods can trigger heartburn and digestive issues that could cause sleep problems, while sugary foods can deliver a boost of energy that you definitely don’t need at bedtime. (So much for dessert :/) “Food just isn’t very useful within two hours of bedtime,” Verma says.
1 Hour Before Bedtime
Power down your devices. Most people don’t think screen light from a phone or iPad is that big of a deal, but it’s actually a pretty big issue. And because you hold devices so close to your eyes, all the brightness gets in, Verma explains.
Stop answering work emails. Thinking about tomorrow’s to-do list isn’t going to help you sleep.
Lower the thermostat. The body temperature drops a little before bedtime because your circadian rhythm controls body temperature. When you control the temperature of your environment, your body takes that as a signal that you should go to sleep. You want to create a cool, dark environment that’s kind of like a cave, says Verma, who likes his thermostat to be set between 66 and 68 degrees at bedtime.
You can also crack a window in your bedroom or the room where you’re relaxing — but only if it’s cool and quiet outside, in which case fresh air can help you sleep better.
Put down the wine glass. While you might think that alcohol makes you sleepy, the effects wear off in the middle of the night, ultimately affecting your quality of sleep, making sleep more fragmented and you more susceptible to disturbances that wouldn’t otherwise wake you up. Any amount of alcohol that would impair your ability to drive could affect your ability to sleep, Verma says.
Taper off liquids. If you’re super thirsty, by all means, drink up. But the hour before bedtime isn’t the best time to make up for a dry day or even make a cup of tea. Otherwise, a full bladder can wake you up for bathroom runs.
Read, listen to music, or talk. Do anything that relaxes you so long as it doesn’t involve a screen — even tidying up clutter can help. A good rule of thumb: If it’s aggravating (like cleaning up your roommate’s mess), it will be activating.
30 Minutes Before Bedtime
Have sex (or masturbate). “People sleep better after sex,” Verma says.
Bathe. When you go to sleep, your body temperature naturally drops a bit. And when you get out of a warm bath or shower, water evaporates off your body to create a similar cooling effect. Don’t feel like you need to wash your hair — sleeping on wet hair makes some people uncomfortable, Verma says.
When You Actually Feel Sleepy
Turn on a fan in your bedroom. Fans create dead noise that drown out disturbing sounds that can turn deep sleep into light sleep without even waking you up.
Get into bed. If you get into bed before you’re actually tired and try to fall asleep, it’s going to backfire in the form of sleeplessness, Verma says.
Remove your heaviest blanket — but only if it usually ends up on the floor or tangled elsewhere in the morning. This is a telltale sign that you get overheated during the night, and that can wake you up and impact your quality of sleep.
Put a cap on the deep conversations. When you sleep with a partner, turning out the lights can create an aura of intimacy that brings out all the feelings. And while you might think that these heavy, emotional conversations would bring you two closer, they can also make your mind race in a way that’s not conducive to sleep. And sleep deprivation can turn you into a monster, which won’t do your relationship any favors. Instead of waiting until bedtime to get all deep, do it during your relaxation time or, better yet, over dinner.
Lie in your favorite position. Whether you sleep on your side, back, or stomach, now’s the time to assume that position. And if you don’t know exactly how you sleep on the regular, the best person to ask is your bed partner, who can creepily clue you in on which positions you tend to favor (and which ones make you snore, if that’s an issue you want to avoid).
When You Get Home at 11:45 on a Weeknight and This Schedule Is, Like, LOLZ
Relax for 10 minutes in a dim place besides your bedroom. “Ten minutes of relaxation will be more helpful than going straight to bed,” Verma says. “Otherwise, you’ll get to bed 10 minutes earlier but you won’t have as deep of a sleep.”
. Or power down devices and get right into bed. If you can’t sleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing like read — real paper, not off a device — until you feel sleepy.
Are you getting enough sleep at night? Do you have problems falling asleep or staying asleep? According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 1 in 3 American Adults do not get healthy amounts of sleep. And stress can make the problem even worse.
The NIH says adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night to stay in good mental and physical health, promote quality of life, and avoid an increased risk of injury. They recommend these tips for getting a good night’s sleep:
- Go to sleep at the same time each night, and get up at the same time each morning, even on the weekends.
- Don’t take naps after 3 p.m, and don’t nap longer than 20 minutes.
- Stay away from caffeine and alcohol late in the day.
- Avoid nicotine completely.
- Get regular exercise, but not within 2-3 hours of bedtime.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal late in the day. A light snack before bedtime is OK.
- Make your bedroom comfortable, dark, quiet, and not too warm or cold.
- Follow a routine to help you relax before sleep (for example, reading or listening to music). Turn off the TV and other screens at least an hour before bedtime.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, do something calming until you feel sleepy, like reading or listening to soft music.
- Talk with a doctor if you continue to have trouble sleeping.
Teens and Sleep
Sleep problems are a special concern for teenagers. The average teen needs about 9 hours of sleep a night. Children and teens who don’t get that much may have problems getting along with others. They may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. They also may have problems paying attention, and they may get lower grades and feel stressed.
In addition to the sleep tips for adults, teens can also try:
- Avoiding screen time at least an hour before bed.
- Banning all-nighters (Don’t leave homework for the last minute!)
- Writing in a diary or on a to-do list just before sleep, to reduce stress
- Sleeping no more than 2 hours later on weekend mornings than on weekday mornings.
Sleep Tips for Cancer Patients
Sleep disturbances can be very common in cancer patients and usually have more than one cause. People in cancer treatment may sleep more than usual, or they may have trouble sleeping. Learn what patients and caregivers can do to help.
We’ve all heard of deep sleep (also known as slow-wave sleep) and how our bodies need it to function properly, but what exactly is it? There is an abundant amount of research on deep sleep, but we have all of the essential information you need to know on what it is, its function, and how you can get more of it.
What is Deep Sleep?
Deep sleep is the sleep stage that is associated with the slowest brain waves during sleep. Because the EEG activity is synchronized, this period of sleep is known as slow-wave sleep: it produces slow waves with a relatively high amplitude and a frequency of less than 1 Hz. The initial section of the wave is indicated by a down state; an inhibition period whereby the neurons in the neocortex are silent. It’s during this period that the neocortical neurons are able to rest. The next section of the wave is indicated by an upstate; an excitation period whereby the neurons fire briefly at a rapid rate. This state is a depolarizing phase, whereas the former state is a hyperpolarizing phase. In contrast with Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM sleep cycle), the main characteristics of slow-wave sleep are absent or slow eye movement, moderate muscle tone, and lack of genital activity.
Research Behind Sleep Stages and Deep Sleep
According to the Rechtschaffen & Kales (R & K) Standard of 1968, deep sleep can be described as stage three of non-rapid eye movement sleep and is often referred to as “slow-wave sleep”. There’s no clear difference between stages three and four; however, stage three has 20 to 50 percent delta activity while stage four has over 50 percent. Since the year 2008, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine no longer refers to stage four, and stages three and four have combined to create stage three. Therefore, a period of 30 seconds’ sleep, consisting of 20% or more slow-wave sleep, is now considered to be stage three. Slow-wave sleep (deep sleep) is one of the Stages of Sleep.
Features of Deep Sleep
- Electroencephalograph (EEG) demonstrates delta waves (high amplitude, low frequency)
- Consolidation of memories
- High arousal threshold
- Presumed restoration of body and brain
Why Is Deep Sleep Important?
Deep sleep is important for consolidation of new memories, and is often referred to as “sleep-dependent memory processing.” Thus, individuals with primary insomnia will have impaired memory consolidation and won’t perform as efficiently as normal patients when completing memory tasks following a period of sleep. In addition, declarative memory is improved with slow-wave sleep, and this includes both semantic and episodic memory.
A central model has been created on the assumption that long-term memory storage is promoted by interaction between the hippocampal and neocortical networks. Several studies have shown that, once subjects have been trained to learn a declarative memory task, there was a significantly higher density of human sleep spindles when compared to the non-learning control task. This occurs due to unconscious wave oscillations that make up the intracellular recordings from cortical and thalamic neurons.
Function of Deep Sleep
Human sleep deprivation studies seem to suggest that the principal function of deep sleep may be to give the brain time to restore itself from its daily activeness. An increase of glucose metabolism in the brain occurs as a result of tasks that require mental activity. Yet another function affected by slow-wave sleep is growth hormone secretion, which is always greatest at this stage. Plus, it also creates both an increase in parasympathetic neural activity and a decrease in sympathetic neural activity.
In deep sleep, the highest arousal thresholds are observed, such as the difficulty of awakening by the sound of a particular volume. When a person awakens from slow-wave sleep, they generally feel quite groggy. Cognitive tests after awakening do indicate that mental performance can be impaired for periods of up to 30 minutes when compared to awakenings from other stages. This phenomenon is known as “sleep inertia.”
There is always a sharp rebound of slow-wave sleep after sleep deprivation, meaning that the next bout of sleep will not only include more slow-wave sleep than normal, but deeper slow-wave sleep. The previous duration of this stage, in addition to the duration of prior wakefulness, will determine the duration of slow-wave sleep. When determining the amount of slow-wave sleep in any given sleep period, the major factor to note is the duration of preceding wakefulness, which is typically related to the build-up of sleep-inducing substances in the brain.
Sleep Disorders During Deep Sleep
There are several sleep disorders and parasomnias that occur predominantly during slow-wave sleep. Sleepwalking (Somnambulism), night terrors (sleep terrors), bed-wetting (Enuresis), sexsomnia, and sleep eating are all associated with slow-wave sleep. Individuals with narcolepsy often have fragmented deep sleep.
Factors that Increase Slow-Wave Deep Sleep
Factors that have shown to increase slow-wave sleep in the sleep period that follows them include intense prolonged exercise and body heating, such as immersion in a sauna or hot tub.
Studies have shown that slow-wave sleep is facilitated when brain temperature exceeds a certain threshold. It’s believed that circadian rhythm and homeostatic processes regulate this threshold. An unusually low, short-term carbohydrate diet in healthy sleepers promotes an increase in the percentage of slow-wave sleep. This includes a production in the percentage of dreaming sleep (REM sleep), when compared to the control with a mixed diet. It’s believed that these sleep changes could very well be linked to the metabolism of the fat content of the low carbohydrate diet. In addition, the ingestion of antidepressants and certain SSRI’s can increase the duration of slow-wave sleep periods; however, the effects of THC on slow-wave sleep remain controversial. Total sleep time in these instances is often unaffected due to a person’s alarm clock, circadian rhythms, or early morning obligations.
How to Get More Deep Sleep
The most important thing that you can do to increase your amount of deep sleep is to allow yourself adequate total sleep time. Often, individuals will deprive themselves of adequate total sleep. In addition to reducing deep sleep, REM sleep is also shortened.
There is some data to suggest that vigorous exercise can increase or consolidate deep sleep. Some sleep specialists recommend aerobic activities like jogging, running, and swimming. For those who are prone to insomnia, it is best to exercise earlier in the day and not before bedtime.
Stage three of the sleep cycle stages, slow-wave sleep (deep sleep), is a crucial part of your cognitive functioning. It plays a major role in memory consolidation and brain restoration. Because of its importance for your overall health, you must increase your amount of deep sleep by allowing yourself to have enough total sleep time each night. Additionally, exercise and a healthy diet are a couple of different methods you can try to help increase your slow-wave sleep.
Having trouble getting enough sleep? If you’re like most teens, the answer is yes.
Do you get enough sleep to feel great and pay attention in school? If you’re like most teens, chances are you don’t. In sleep studies, researchers found that more than 15 million kids and teens get poor sleep. The teens who got poor sleep were more likely to have family fights and bad headaches.
The problem with poor sleep is how you feel when you are awake — usually cranky, sad, and moody. There’s more: Teens who get poor sleep have problems getting along at home and at school. They have poor grades. And sleep-deprived teens tend to be apathetic. They are also more at risk for car wrecks, making the problem of teens and sleep even more serious.
Your mom or dad may yell, “Get in bed and go to sleep!” But that’s easier said than done. If you are like most teens, you like to stay up late. But why? You can blame it in part on TV, homework, instant messaging, and fun drinks filled with caffeine.
But there’s more to it than that. Researchers believe that teens are “pre-programmed” to fall asleep late and get up late, unlike adults and younger kids who can fall asleep early and get up early. Some think teens need more hormones for growth, and growth hormones are made during sleep. These experts now ask why schools start so early, if teens need to sleep longer to stay well.
Teens and Sleep Disorders
Most teens are tired because they just aren’t getting enough sleep. But feeling sleepy all the time may be a sign of something more serious: a sleep disorder. With a sleep disorder, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, problems with excessive sleepiness, or parasomnias. This last group of sleep problems includes sleep terrors and sleepwalking. Many teen-related sleep disorders fall into one of two groups: a delayed sleep phase or an irregular sleep-wake schedule. Let’s take a closer look at these two problems.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome
In his book Bipolar II, psychopharmacologist Ronald Fieve, MD, says delayed sleep phase syndrome is a common problem. It is linked to an inability to fall asleep and daytime sleepiness. “This is caused by a short circuit between one’s biological clock and the 24-hour day.”
While delayed sleep phase syndrome is found in those with depression, many teens are at risk, too, if they can’t fall asleep at night and have trouble waking up at 6 a.m. for school.
An Irregular Sleep-Wake Schedule
Fieve says that an irregular sleep-wake schedule happens due to a lack of lifestyle scheduling. The good news is that this means you can fix this sleep disorder.
An irregular sleep-wake disorder means you are awake most of the night, perhaps playing your Wii or Nintendo DS Lite. Then you need to sleep much of the next day to feel good. Teens who stay up until the wee hours of morning on weekends have problems getting their bodies to fall asleep early on Sunday night so they can be fresh for school on Monday. Many teens claim to nod off in their first class, as they cannot wake up.
While a study at Brown University found that teens need just as much sleep as they did when they were preteens (about 9 to 10 hours), teens get on average just over seven hours of sleep a night. In the past, researchers rarely linked more sleep with high grades. However, in this study, they said that teens who got A’s on their report cards got an hour more sleep at night and went to bed an hour earlier than peers who got D’s and F’s.
8 Ezzz Sleep Tips for Teens
So how can you change your sleep habits? Try these sleep tips:
1. Make your bedroom a quiet place. Turn your computer off before you get in bed. If your home is loud at night, wear earplugs.
2. Take a hot bath or shower before bed to boost deep sleep. Then keep your room cool (about 68 F) to cool your body. One study showed that sleep happens when the body cools. Wakefulness occurs when the body temperature warms up.
3. If light bothers you, put blackout shades in your windows. Make sure your door is shut when you go to bed. Turn your clock with the face toward the wall, so you don’t check the time all night long. You can also buy a lightweight and comfortable sleep mask at most stores that will cover your eyes and prevent light entry. When you get up on school days, open your shades, and turn on your light. The early light of day helps to “reset” your brain to push your bedtime to an earlier hour.
4. If you are stressed, relax with soft music or yoga right before bedtime. If you can’t relax, ask your doctor for help.
5. Go to bed early when you’re ill. Even an hour earlier each night can help give your body the sleep it needs to get well. Be sure to plan for this added sleep time if you have to get up early for school.
6. In the book Smart Cookies Don’t Get Stale, dietitians Catherine Christie, PhD, and Susan Mitchell, PhD, say to eat high-carb snacks before bed. This makes you feel warm and sleepy. Try pretzels, cereal, graham crackers, fresh fruit, dried fruit, fruit juice, vanilla wafers, saltines, popcorn, or toast with jam or jelly.
7. Use good night “scents.” Christie and Mitchell say aromatherapy can boost sleep. Try orange blossom, marjoram, chamomile, and lavender scents. (If you’re using a candle or incense, be sure to put it out before you crawl into bed.)
8. Figure out what other things you use might make sleep difficult. If you are taking medications, ask your doctor if these might cause poor sleep. If you like caffeinated drinks, cut these out for a few days to see that helps. Many people find that chamomile and valerian herbal teas help them feel sleepy. These days you can find either or a combination of both at most drug stores and supermarkets. Try one to two strong cups at bedtime.
SOURCES: Fieve, R. Bipolar II, Rodale, 2006. Carskadon, C. “When Worlds Collide: Adolescent Need for Sleep Versus Societal Demands” in Wahlstrom, K (ed): Adolescent Sleep Needs and School Starting Times, Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, 1999. National Sleep Foundation: “How to Get Help” and “Healthy Sleep Tips.” National Institutes of Health: “Nine Hours of Sleep Key to ‘Back to School’ Success.” Krauchi K, et al. Clinical Sports Medicine, April 2005; vol 24 no 2: pp 287-300. Christie, C. and Mitchell, S. Smart Cookies Don’t Get Stale, Kensington, 1999.
As temperatures soar in some areas of New Zealand this summer, getting a good night’s sleep seems harder than ever – and don’t get us started on the humidity.
So you don’t have to spend your nights tossing and turning, we’ve compiled the top eight heatwave hacks to banish the night sweats and keep you feeling fresh until the morning.
1. Freeze your sheets
It might sound a bit quirky, but putting your sheets or pillow in the fridge is said to be very effective.
Stick your bed sheets in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before bed, placing them in a plastic bag first for temporarily cold bedding. Take them out when you’re ready for bed and enjoy a cool sleep.
- Eight tips to help you sleep better in this heat – NZ Herald
- Tossing and turning on hot nights? What’s the solution? – NZ Herald
- Muggy weather: How to get some goddamn sleep this summer – NZ Herald
- Research shows a simple trick to help you get more sleep – NZ Herald
2. Sleep solo
Kick your partner out of the bed. Cuddling increases body heat, so sleeping alone will help prevent sticky, sweaty nights.
And if they refuse to move, try giving up your comfy mattress to sleep on the floor, or placing a spare mattress down. It’s an effective way to avoid hot air, which rises upwards. Science.
3. Cool showers
Take a cold shower before bed. This will help bring your core body temperature down and you can hit the hay feeling clean, fresh and cool.
4. Close the curtains
Thirty per cent of unwanted heat comes from your windows, so closing them and shutting the curtains can lower the temperature.
Keep curtains and blinds, particularly in the bedroom, closed during the day to keep the sun out. In the evening, open windows to let the cool night air in.
5. Ice your fan – and your feet
Place a bowl or pan of ice in front of a plug-in fan – the airflow generated by the fan will be even colder after it sweeps over the ice.
Even after three “snoozes” and more than your normal dose of coffee this morning, you’re still drowsy. You’re feeling crabby, rundown, exhausted—and you can’t shake the yawns. Why are you so tired?
You probably didn’t get enough sleep last night and you’re not alone. Insufficient sleep is a health epidemic, and one that can have negative effects on your overall health and productivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Don’t be “just another” statistic. Give these 11 techniques a try instead and reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep:
1. Give yourself a bedtime.
Pick a time at night when you typically start feeling tired and go to sleep every night at that time—even on the weekends. Sticking to a daily sleep routine keeps your biological clock in order so that you’ll sleep more soundly. If you do have to change your sleep pattern, do so in small increments, like going to bed earlier or staying up later by 15 minutes.
2. Move, move, move.
Did you know regular exercise relieves insomnia? According to a study at Northwestern University’s Department of Neurobiology and Physiology, people who got aerobic exercise four times a week improved their quality of sleep—and they were less tired during the day, reported less depressive symptoms and had more vitality.
Keep in mind that while exercise can help you sleep better, you shouldn’t squeeze your workout into the hours before bedtime. Strenuous activity two or three hours before bed can raise the temperature of your body, which makes it harder for you to fall asleep.
Make time for a nightly “unwinding” ritual—like reading a book, taking a warm shower bath, preparing for the next day, listening to soothing music. Activities like these will help ease the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness, making you feel more relaxed. But be careful not to overdo it with the electronic gadgets—lights from these devices stimulate the brain, which makes it harder to unwind.
4. Smoke and drink no more.
Smokers are four times less likely to feel well rested after a night’s sleep than nonsmokers, according to a study in the Chest Journal. Why? Because of the stimulating effect of nicotine, as well as withdrawal pangs during the night. The bad habit can also lead to asthma and sleep apnea. So add “quit smoking” to your to-do list.
And while you’re at it, you should consider giving up that nightcap, too. While alcohol might help you fall asleep initially, studies have found that it reduces REM sleep and can even suppress breathing.
5. Build a cave.
Your bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet if you want to get a solid night of sleeping. The temperature should be set around 65 degrees—if room is too hot, it can interfere with your body’s natural dip in temperature throughout the night, disrupting your sleep. You also should make sure there is as little background noise and light as possible—turn off the TV, use low-wattage bulbs in your bedroom, and invest in blackout curtains to keep the room dark.
6. Nap—the right way.
Naps help restore alertness, increase productivity and can be used as a sort of mini-vacation, an escape from reality—which is why organizations like Google and The Huffington Post have places for employees to sleep on the job. While naps are nice in more ways than one, you should try to limit yours to 10-30 minutes per day, preferably in the mid-afternoon—if you nap for too long, you will throw off your sleep pattern.
7. Say no to supersizing.
Stay away from consuming large meals—especially ones that are acidic and spicy—before you hit the hay. Otherwise you’ll struggle to fall asleep because of digestion and heartburn. If you must satisfy your grumbling tummy, choose a snack that combines carbohydrates and calcium or a protein and the amino acid tryptophan to boost serotonin levels. Try a banana with a teaspoon of peanut butter, fruit with low-fat yogurt, or a piece of grain toast with low-fat cheese or turkey.
8. Make it a rule: Your bedroom is for sleeping only.
Your bedroom is where you sleep. It’s not where you watch TV, work or eat. By removing life’s distractions and dedicating the space to slumber, you’ll sleep more peacefully.
9. Sleep solo.
Dr. John Shepard, director of the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, conducted a study in 2001 to see how pets affect the sleep of their owners. What did he find? That “53 percent considered their sleep to be disrupted to some extent every night.” Pets, and kids, aren’t usually sound sleepers. And if they’re sharing a bed with you, you may have a poor night’s sleep, too. It might be hard to say no to that face, but if you can, keep the bed to yourself.
10. Stress less.
When we’re worried, our sleep suffers. Manage your stress by meditating and relaxing before you get in bed. Write down your concerns, delegate tasks and create to-do-lists for the next day so that you can free your mind.
11. Strike a (healthy) pose.
What’s your go-to sleep position—back, side, stomach? Sleeping on your back should be your No. 1 choice because it prevents neck and back pain and reduces acid reflux. If you’re a back-sleeper, though, be sure that you have a puffy pillow so that your head and neck are properly supported. What about side-sleeping? That’s also good for overall health, but you’ll need a thick pillow to fill the space above your shoulder. And stomach sleeping is the worst because it prevents neutral spine position and puts pressure on your joints and muscles—so if you can’t help but sleep facedown, at least get a thin or no pillow at all.
Tired of feeling tired? Here are some simple tips to help you get to sleep.
After a night spent tossing and turning, you wake up feeling like a couple of the Seven Dwarves: sleepy. and grumpy. Restless nights and weary mornings can become more frequent as we get older and our sleep patterns change—which often begins around the time of menopause, when hot flashes and other symptoms awaken us.
“Later in life there tends to be a decrease in the number of hours slept,” says Dr. Karen Carlson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of Women’s Health Associates at Massachusetts General Hospital. “There are also some changes in the way the body regulates circadian rhythms,” she adds. This internal clock helps your body respond to changes in light and dark. When it undergoes a shift with age, it can be harder to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.
We all have trouble sleeping from time to time, but when insomnia persists day after day, it can become a real problem. Beyond making us tired and moody, a lack of sleep can have serious effects on our health, increasing our propensity for obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
If you’ve been having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you may have turned to sleep medications in search of more restful slumber. However, these drugs can have side effects—including appetite changes, dizziness, drowsiness, abdominal discomfort, dry mouth, headaches, and strange dreams. A recent study in the British Medical Journal associated several hypnotic sleep aids, including zolpidem (Ambien) and temazepam (Restoril), with a possible increased risk of death (although it couldn’t confirm how much of the risk was related to these drugs).
You don’t need to avoid sleep aids if you absolutely need them, but before you turn to pills, try these eight tips to help you get a better night’s sleep:
Going for a brisk daily walk won’t just trim you down, it will also keep you up less often at night. Exercise boosts the effect of natural sleep hormones such as melatonin, Dr. Carlson says. A study in the journal Sleep found that postmenopausal women who exercised for about three-and-a-half hours a week had an easier time falling asleep than women who exercised less often. Just watch the timing of your workouts. Exercising too close to bedtime can be stimulating. Carlson says a morning workout is ideal. “Exposing yourself to bright daylight first thing in the morning will help the natural circadian rhythm,” she says.
2. Reserve bed for sleep and sex
Don’t use your bed as an office for answering phone calls and responding to emails. Also avoid watching late-night TV there. “The bed needs to be a stimulus for sleeping, not for wakefulness,” Dr. Carlson advises. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex.
3. Keep it comfortable
Television isn’t the only possible distraction in your bedroom. Ambience can affect your sleep quality too. Make sure your bedroom is as comfortable as possible. Ideally you want “a quiet, dark, cool environment,” Dr. Carlson says. “All of these things promote sleep onset.”
4. Start a sleep ritual
When you were a child and your mother read you a story and tucked you into bed every night, this comforting ritual helped lull you to sleep. Even in adulthood, a set of bedtime rituals can have a similar effect. “Rituals help signal the body and mind that it’s coming to be time for sleep,” explains Dr. Carlson. Drink a glass of warm milk. Take a bath. Or listen to calming music to unwind before bed.
5. Eat—but not too much
A grumbling stomach can be distracting enough to keep you awake, but so can an overly full belly. Avoid eating a big meal within two to three hours of bedtime. If you’re hungry right before bed, eat a small healthy snack (such as an apple with a slice of cheese or a few whole-wheat crackers) to satisfy you until breakfast.
6. Avoid alcohol and caffeine
If you do have a snack before bed, wine and chocolate shouldn’t be part of it. Chocolate contains caffeine, which is a stimulant. Surprisingly, alcohol has a similar effect. “People thinks it makes them a little sleepy, but it’s actually a stimulant and it disrupts sleep during the night,” Dr. Carlson says. Also stay away from anything acidic (such as citrus fruits and juices) or spicy, which can give you heartburn.
The bills are piling up and your to-do list is a mile long. Daytime worries can bubble to the surface at night. “Stress is a stimulus. It activates the fight-or-flight hormones that work against sleep,” Dr. Carlson says. Give yourself time to wind down before bed. “Learning some form of the relaxation response can promote good sleep and can also reduce daytime anxiety.” To relax, try deep breathing exercises. Inhale slowly and deeply, and then exhale.
8. Get checked
An urge to move your legs, snoring, and a burning pain in your stomach, chest, or throat are symptoms of three common sleep disrupters—restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, and gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. If these symptoms are keeping you up at night or making you sleepy during the day, see your doctor for an evaluation.
Taking sleep medicines safely
If you’ve tried lifestyle changes and they aren’t working, your doctor may prescribe hypnotic sleep medications. These drugs can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, but they also can have side effects. Here are some tips for ensuring that you’re taking these medicines as safely as possible:
Tell your doctor about all other medicines you’re taking. Some drugs can interact with sleep medications.
Take only the lowest possible effective dose, for the shortest possible period of time.
Carefully follow your doctor’s instructions. Make sure you take the right dose, at the right time of day (which is typically just before bed).
Call your doctor right away if you experience any side effects, such as excess sleepiness during the day or dizziness.
While you’re taking the sleep medicine, also practice the good sleep habits outlined in this article.
Avoid drinking alcohol and driving while taking sleep aids.
Sleep medications may make you walk unsteadily if you get out of bed in a drowsy state. If you routinely have to get out of bed during the night to urinate, be sure the path to your bathroom is clear of obstacles or loose rugs so you don’t fall.
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Anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. This is true both for people with anxiety disorders, and for anyone who is under a large amount of stress.
A 2017 survey found that 45% of Americans reported being kept awake by stress within the past month. At the same time, sleep deprivation can make feelings of anxiety worse.
Here’s what you need to know about the relationship between sleep and anxiety, and how to get better sleep when you’re feeling anxious or stressed.
How to sleep with anxiety
Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that one-third of adults don’t get enough sleep.
Not sleeping enough can make anxiety worse, research has found. “There is a pretty strong correlation between sleep troubles and anxiety,” says Mayra Mendez, Ph.D., a licensed psychotherapist.
However, there are ways to get a good night’s sleep even if you are dealing with anxiety, Mendez says. Here’s how:
- Practice good sleep hygiene. This means going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day. You can also have a bedtime routine that includes calming activities, like taking a bath or reading a book. Avoid screens, since research has found that people who use screens select a later bedtime, and feel more drowsy in the morning. Don’t do any stressful activities, like managing your finances, in the hour before bed. “If you’re thinking about it close to bedtime, there’s a stressor,” Mendez says.
- Exercise. Getting any sort of physical activity during the day can help you sleep better at night. A 2017 scientific review found that exercise “increased sleep efficiency and duration regardless of the mode and intensity of activity.”
- Try mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness — being aware of what is happening to and around you right now — is helpful, particularly when anxiety hits at bed time or during the middle of the night. “Being aware that you’re spinning in worries, fears, or stress can then manage those thoughts,” Mendez says. Research has found that mindfulness meditation can help older adults who have trouble sleeping. If you wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety, but aren’t used to meditating, Mendez recommends a guided meditation.
- Consider taking melatonin.Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone that begins rising about two hours before bed and causes a feeling of sleepiness. Although there isn’t yet conclusive evidence, some research has indicated that taking a melatonin supplement can help with insomnia. Melatonin has also been found to help with the anxiety before a surgical procedure. Mendez recommends talking to your doctor before starting melatonin, but says, “It can be very helpful to break that cycle of negative anticipation” over lack of sleep.
- Know when to get up. Sometimes, sleep troubles can build anxiety because you know you should be asleep. If you haven’t fallen asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed. “It’s better to not fight it,” Mendez says. “Get up and do something soothing, allowing your brain to calm.” Follow the same guidelines for the hour before bed, avoiding screens or other stimuli and opting for quiet, calm activities like reading or drawing.
Anxiety, stress, and insomnia are closely related
When it comes to anxiety and sleep, there’s a bit of chicken and egg situation: it’s hard to know which problem came first.
However, research has found that insomnia and stress are closely related. Studies have shown that stress causes lack of sleep, and that lack of sleep, in turn, “activates many stress-related pathways” in the brain.
Because of this, treating one condition can help with the other. According to Mendez, getting enough sleep is part of an overall care plan for managing anxiety, with or without a formal diagnosis. On the other hand, for people with anxiety disorders, treatment with medication and therapy can help address sleep issues.
“If you’ve tried all these practical, non-invasive strategies, there is no crime in seeking out medical help,” Mendez says.
This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation
Follow a regular schedule to live a happier, healthier life.
Erratic sleep patterns can leave you feeling out of whack, so a regular sleep schedule may be exactly what you need. Just a few adjustments to your daily routine can help you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. These tips will help you take control of your internal clock.
Pick a bedtime and a wake-up time—and stick to them as much as possible. Life will inevitably interfere, but try not to sleep in for more than an hour or two, tops, on Saturdays and Sundays so that you can stay on track. That way, your body’s internal clock—also called a [sleep_term ]—will get accustomed to a new bedtime, which will help you fall asleep better at night and wake up more easily each morning.
Make Gradual Adjustments.
You won’t be able to change your sleep schedule overnight. The most effective tactic is to make small changes slowly. If you’re trying to go to sleep at 10:00pm, rather than midnight, for example, try this: For the first three or four nights, go to bed at 11:45pm, and then go to bed at 11:30pm for the next few days. Keep adjusting your sleep schedule like this. By working in 15-minute increments, your body will have an easier time adjusting.
See the Morning Light.
Your body’s internal clock is sensitive to light and darkness, so getting a dose of the sun first thing in the morning will help you wake up. Opening the curtains to let natural light in your bedroom or having a cup of coffee on your sun-drenched porch will cue your brain to start the day.
Dim the Nightlights.
Likewise, too much light in the evenings can signal that you should stay awake. Before bedtime, dim as many lights as possible and turn off bright overhead lights. Avoid computers, tablets, cell phones, and TV an hour before bed, since your eyes are especially sensitive to the blue light from electronic screens. (If there’s something good on TV at night, DVR it so you can watch it another time.)
Skip the Snooze Button.
Though it’s certainly tempting to hit the snooze button in the morning to get a few extra winks, resist. The first few days of getting up earlier won’t be easy, but post-snooze sleep isn’t high quality. Instead, set your alarm to the time that you actually need to get up and remember that it may take a few minutes for your body to adjust to a daytime rhythm. If you can, skip the alarm altogether. Your body should wake up naturally after a full night’s sleep—usually seven to nine hours—and you’ll feel most alert if you wake up without an electronic aid.
Food for Thought.
It’s not just what you eat—it’s when you eat. While you know that it’s not a good idea to go to bed on an empty stomach, being stuffed is just as bad. Having dinner around the same time every night will help keep your whole body on track. Also, limit how much you drink before bedtime to avoid trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. A good rule of thumb is to eat your last meal two to three hours before bedtime.
If you must eat before bed try a small snack that blends carbohydrates and protein together, such as cereal with a banana, cheese and crackers, or wheat toast with natural peanut butter. You should also avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol in the evenings, since those stimulants take hours to wear off.