Sleep. It seems like no one these days is getting enough of it. In fact, though most healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, a recent poll found that a full 20 percent of adults get less than 6 hours each night. In addition to leaving the sleep-deprived tired and crabby, a lack of sleep affects our ability to learn, overall health, stamina, and memory. Some doctors even claim that sleep is the single biggest trigger of clinical depression. With the need for sleep so deeply ingrained in our brains, it’s time we learned some tricks to make sure we’re getting the right amount. This list presents some tips for getting to sleep to get the rest that you need.
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10. Take a Hot Bath
Because our body needs to lower its overall temperature in order to fall asleep, taking a hot bath seems like the exact opposite of what we should do before bedtime. However, if you’re careful to follow a few simple rules, a warm bath prior to bed can help you drift off to sleep quickly. First, make sure you don’t stay in the bath too long. While a quick soak will relax your muscles and central nervous system, a long bath will leave you exhausted and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Use bath salts or a combination of Epsom salt and baking soda to release toxins from your muscles. Finally, make sure you finish your bath at least two hours before you head to bed. This will give your body time to cool down before bed and your temperature time to fall sufficiently to make it easy for you to drop off to sleep.
9. Listen to Music or Read in Bed
Whether it’s memories of being serenaded to sleep as a baby or something more sophisticated going on in our brains, many people find that listening to relaxing music is a big help in falling asleep. And there are those who say that reading can also lull you off to sleepy-land, as it is a great way to distract your mind from churing. Basically, music and reading will each help to stop the gears from grinding, and of course, while it is entirely a matter oof personal choice, choosing the right music to fall asleep to is important. Choose something soothing, without a complex melody that you can relax with, not the pumping gym beats; this probably isn’t the best time for The Ramones or Van Halen either. Many companies currently market CDs custom-made to help you drift off to dreamland. If you’re going to make your own CD, classical music is always a good bet.
8. Try Melatonin to Sleep
Melatonin is produced in the dark, while we sleep, by the pineal gland and wanes upon daybreak: bright light signals the production cycle to shut down. Melatonin is made from an amino acid called tryptophan, the same stuff in turkeys that makes you sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner (apologies to readers outside of North America, who may not relate to this reference). Studies suggest that melatonin may be a kind of “natural” sleeping pill, inducing sleep without suppressing REM (dream) sleep and without producing side effects, such as those caused by sedatives and other artificial sleep aids. Commit to taking Melatonin consistently for at least two weeks before you expect to see a difference; it can take some time for Melatonin to build up in your system enough to take effect.
In addition to helping you lose or maintain your weight, add “helps you get to sleep” to the list of benefits of daily physical exercise. Just 15 minutes of intense physical exercise each day will help ensure that your body gets the oxygen it needs to maintain a proper sleep cycle. In fact, the more tired you are during the day, the more you should commit to exercising, as it will help you sleep better at night. Make sure that you plan to your exercise to end at least one hour before bedtime, or you might be too wound up to sleep. Most sleep experts agree that exercising in the morning ensures the biggest benefit: giving you more energy during the day and the ability to sleep more soundly at night.
6. Get Up
Don’t try to fall asleep for more than 30 minutes at a time. If you aren’t able to drop off to sleep within those 30 minutes, get up and try again later. In the interim, do something quiet and non-stimulating, such as reading a short magazine article or making a to-do list for the following day. This is not the time to pick up that engaging mystery novel you’re reading, or you could find yourself up all night. Once you find yourself feeling tired again, give sleep another shot. If you can help it, don’t work and don’t keep looking at the clock and worrying about how much sleep you’re missing out on. Stress will only add to your inability to sleep.
5. Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
Though it might seem that sleepy feeling frequently brought on by alcohol would be a good thing prior to bedtime, the sleep that results from imbibing alcohol is actually shallow, disturbed, and characterized by frequent waking in the early morning hours. Alcohol also disrupts your dream cycle, which leads to feelings of sleepiness during the day. And while avoiding caffeine before bedtime might seem like a no-brainer, many people fail to realize that their bodies metabolize caffeine at a slower rate, leading to them feeling “caffeinated” long after their last cup of coffee. Avoiding caffeine after 2:00 p.m. can help ensure that you’re not wired when it’s time for bed.
Scientists recently discovered that yawning is linked to brain temperature. As exhausted or sleep-deprived individuals are more likely to have an elevated brain temperature, sleep experts believe that yawning helps cool down the brain, a process necessary for the body to fall asleep. By the same token, forcing yourself to yawn is believed to begin cooling the brain and signal your body that it’s time for sleep. Though it might sound unlikely, many former insomniacs swear that making themselves to yawn 2 to 3 times in quick succession is the only thing they need to cause their body to drift off to meet the sandman.
3. Take Naps
Contrary to popular belief, taking naps during the day can actually help you better fall asleep at night, provided you follow a few simple rules. If you have the kind of lifestyle that allows you an afternoon nap, make sure you nap each and every day at the same time. Keep your naps short: no longer than 20 to 25 minutes, and try to nap in the early afternoon; 20 to 30 minutes after lunch is the ideal time for a catnap, as your body is most inclined to be drowsy then. However, there is one caveat to the daily nap routine: don’t nap the day following a bad night’s sleep! Forcing your body to stay awake and active when you’re most tired will go a long way towards helping you make up for a rough night when you get the chance to sleep again.
2. Chill Out
It seems every fall our local television meteorologist advises us that a certain night will be “good sleeping weather.” This is because your body needs to lower its temperature in order for you to fall asleep; hence, cooler nights are equated with better sleeping. Keeping the temperature in your bedroom below 70 degrees can aid your body in falling asleep faster and staying asleep. Opening a window in the cooler (but not cold!) months has the added benefit of getting your body some fresh air in the process. One of the best parts of keeping a cool bedroom is the cozy feeling of nestling into warm covers to fall asleep.
1. Turn Off the T.V.
While some people are able to drift away while watching news or old sitcom reruns, television before bed is a sure path to insomnia for many. This is because television is mentally and visually stimulating, keeping awake the very parts of your brain that you want to put to sleep. Additionally, the light coming from a television set can interfere with the dark environment most people require in order to fall asleep easily. To help your brain wind down and prepare for bedtime, make sure to turn off the television at least 30 minutes before you attempt to fall asleep. If you have difficulty going to sleep, don’t turn the television back on. Read, relax, listen to music, talk to your husband/wife/whatever, but no tv.