Author: Amber Brubaker
Though the amount of sleep adults need varies from person to person, the general standard falls anywhere from 7-9 hours each night. However, a shocking amount of adults don’t even come close to meeting the minimum. For many, it’s because they have a terrible habit of staying up late by choice. But for some, they lack sleep simply because they can’t sleep. The good news for the sleep deprived is that your sleep problems can often be cured with a few simple tweaks to your everyday lifestyle.
1. Set a Sleep Schedule
Your body relies on a systematic sleep-wake cycle, and if you sleep 9pm to 6am one night and 11pm to 5am the next, your body has a hard time knowing when and how long it needs to sleep. The solution is to have a routine sleep schedule and stick to it as best as possible! The healthiest schedule would mean going to bed between 9:30 and 10 at night and waking up between 6 and 7 in the morning. That way, you’re getting the right amount of sleep time and treating your body to a healthy routine.
2. Healthy Diet
Having a healthy diet enables proper body function, which in turn helps you sleep. Make sure you are getting the proper amount of vitamins and nutrients in the foods you eat and try to stay away from excess caffeine and alcohol, as that can trigger active responses in the brain rather than relaxing ones.
As part of a healthy diet, refrain from eating or drinking too much near bedtime. You’ll want your last meal to end at least 2 hours before you go to sleep. If you have to snack, eat something very light, like fruit or small portions of cheese and crackers, and drink only water if you’re thirsty.
Perhaps one of the best remedies for a good night’s sleep is physical activity. It can help you fall asleep more quickly and promote deeper sleep so that you are able to sleep through the night. Vigorous exercise five times a week is best, but even light exercise is better than nothing. If you have a hard time finding the time to exercise, simply try to walk more in your daily activity. Get a pedometer to track your steps and continually try to increase the number of steps you walk per day.
4. Limit Naps
A long nap feels great at the time, but it may actually be the source of your insomnia. The same can be said for sleeping in. A nap and oversleeping can work as a trigger for your body, telling your brain that you’ve already had enough sleep today and don’t need as much sleep that night. If you simply can’t keep your eyes open during the day, take a cat nap of 10-30 minutes—just enough to rejuvenate you, but not enough to keep you from sleeping that night.
5. Handle Stress
Stress is a major part of many people’s lives and unfortunately, it’s also a major cause of missed sleep. Evaluate your sleeping patterns in conjunction with the amount of stress you’ve been under lately. You might find that your stress is the cause. To resolve this, learn to manage stressful feelings. You might want to carry a stress ball with you at all times to help relieve the emotion a little bit at a time. Meditation and yoga are also great tools for relaxing the mind. Just a few minutes participation in such a relaxing activity can help you loosen up enough for sleep.
6. Prep Your Room
Perhaps you aren’t sleeping because you’re uncomfortable or your room isn’t conducive for a restful night. Your mattress and pillows could be causing irritation while you sleep, waking you up at odd times. Also, if you have thin windows or curtains in your bedroom that don’t block out sufficient light and sound, you could be awakened periodically by elements from outside. A TV in the bedroom encourages staying up late and discourages deep sleep. If your walls are painted loud, bright colors, change them to cool, calm colors that help you relax before bed.
7. Reserve the Bed for Sleep
It can be very tempting to lie in bed during the day surfing the Internet, reading a book, or watching TV, especially if your mattress is particularly comfortable. However, this can do more harm than good in the long run. Your body needs to recognize your bed as a place of sleep, not a place of idle recreation. If you train your body to perceive your bed as a place to eat, read, and think of everything you need to do, you will be lying awake night after night, thinking of just those things.
8. Diagnose the Problem
Often, inability to sleep comes from a problem bigger than poor lighting or stress. Perhaps it stems from a serious, but treatable condition known as insomnia. Likewise, joint pain from arthritis or a previous injury, can have a profound impact on your sleep cycle. If you’re being kept up at night by such pain, you’ll want to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon for a consultation and to get you quickly on your way to better sleep.