10 From GEM:
10 Easy Ways To Better Sleep
There are a million reasons why we don’t get the sleep our bodies crave. Work, children, stress, clock watching, and caffeine are just a few of the things that conspire to keep us from getting the optimal eight hours of rest at night. Life is messy like that. As always, we’re here to help you get those eight hours with 10 easy ways to better sleep. These strategies can help you make it happen, so think about which ones fit into your life and give one or two—or all 10—a shot.
1. STAY ON A SLEEP SCHEDULE
We all are ruled by the circadian rhythm: the 24-hour cycle. When that rhythm is disrupted by jet lag, a crying baby, or working second or third shift, our sleeping patterns go haywire. To the extent that these factors can be controlled, go to bed and wake up at the same times every day. Sticking with a regular schedule will help you feel refreshed when you wake up and energized throughout the day.
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2. EXPOSE YOURSELF TO
LIGHT DURING THE DAY
Natural and artificial light sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake, so get lots of it during the day. At home, open blinds and curtains, even on cloudy days. If you don’t sit by a window at work, try to get outside for a few minutes during breaks or lunch. Invest in a light therapy box if necessary. They simulate sunshine and can be particularly helpful during the winter months when the days are short.
3. DECREASE LIGHT
EXPOSURE AT NIGHT
As the evening wears on, consider decreasing the amount of light in your home. A simple fix is to use 3-way light bulbs and turn lamps to the lowest setting. A half-hour or so before bedtime, turn off the TV not only because of the light, but also because TV is so stimulating to the brain. Avoid using devices with a backlight, such as computers, tablets, and smartphones. If you can’t darken your room enough because of street lights, wear a sleep mask.
4. GET COMFORTABLE
Look at your own bedroom with a critical eye toward making the conditions right for sleep. Is it time to invest in a more comfortable mattress? Is the room the right temperature? Is white noise needed to block out street sounds? Is the room dark enough? Just a few simple steps can make the bedroom conducive to good sleep.
5. FIND RELAXING BEDTIME RITUALS
Think back to when you were a kid. You probably had bedtime rituals that your mother oversaw. Maybe you did some quiet activities, had a bath, and read stories. Don’t underestimate the need for adults to engage in bedtime rituals, too. Just as it is with kids, rituals are a powerful cue to the brain that it’s time to sleep. Some rituals to try are to drink chamomile tea, take a bath, read a book by soft lights, listen to an audiobook, or make some non-stimulating preparations for the next day. Try any combination of these and other activities that will work for you.
6. REDUCE STRESS
Yes, this is much easier said than done. However, stress is an inside job, meaning that it’s something we do to ourselves. We are not powerless to take action against it. We all have had problems that literally keep us awake at night, but it’s our perspective that poses the problem. As the old saw goes, “If there’s nothing you can do about it, why worry? If there’s something you can do about it, why worry?” We would all do well to evaluate how we can reduce or eliminate stressors so we can sleep well, which will enable us to tackle our problems more effectively.
7. HUNGRY AT NIGHT?
EAT SOMETHING. OR DON’T
Some people won’t be able to sleep soundly with an empty stomach. If that’s the case for you, have a light snack. No, this is not an excuse to scarf down a bag of chips. Have something that will promote sleep—or at least won’t disrupt it—like half a turkey sandwich, a bowl of whole-grain cereal, or a banana.
People tend to think that if they exercise during the day, they’ll automatically be able to sleep soundly at night. New research suggests that you’ll sleep more deeply, but your insomnia may not be cured right away. Stick with it. Exercise has benefits that go beyond sleep. Expect to be engaged in daily exercise for several weeks or possibly months before experiencing improved sleeping habits.
9. SEE A DOCTOR
Nobody has to live with chronic insomnia. Most of us don’t think to discuss ongoing sleep problems with a doctor, but there may be a physiological reason for insomnia. Over time, sleep problems can affect job performance and relationships and it could lead to anxiety, depression, and other disorders. A doctor can help get to the root of the problem.
10. MAKE YOUR OWN SLEEP RULES
Some experts suggest that if people have problems sleeping at night, they shouldn’t take a nap. You are the expert on yourself. If a 20-minute power nap will help you make up a sleep deficit and get through the day, take a nap. You are the only person who can experiment to find the right combination of strategies to aid sleep. Use the rules of sleep as a guide and find what works for you.
What about you? What’s the best route to a visit from the sandman? Share your ideas below.
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Alexis Trass Walker lives in Gary, Indiana, with her husband and four children. She is a writer, a work at home mother, and a new business owner. Read more about Alexis on her blog www.lilliebelle.org, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter @LillieBelle5.