Sleep is a basic, vital need for the human body. It is recommended that adults get about seven to nine hours of sleep per night. With busy work schedules and other life obligations, it can be hard to get the right amount of sleep. When you also consider how many people have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, the problem becomes even bigger. It needs to be prioritized, as it can directly impact your health. While the occasional bad night's sleep isn't likely to impact your health, over time, it can increase your blood pressure and your risk of stroke or heart attack. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Go to Bed at the Same Time
It can be tempting to stay up late on the weekend, or stay in bed longer on Saturday morning. It feels good not to have to respond to an alarm. However, those who are struggling with sleep issues should consider sticking to the same schedule seven days a week. This is because it trains your brain to associate a certain time of day with sleeping and waking up. When your brain recognizes a certain time as bedtime, it can help regulate your sleep cycles, help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night without issues. Setting an alarm for when it's time for bed can help you stick to the schedule. Leave your wake up alarm on as well, and try to get out of bed the same time as you do on weekdays.
If your sleep schedule does not allow you to get the recommended amount of sleep, then you may need to reevaluate it. See if you can't cut down on the amount of time it takes you to get ready in the morning, by taking a shower at night, picking out your outfit the night before and drinking coffee at home instead of stopping at your local coffee shop. You might also want to go to bed a little earlier as well, if you can.
- Improve Your Sleep Environment
It may be your bedroom environment making your sleep difficult. For example, televisions in the bedroom can disrupt your sleep. This is for a couple of reasons. For one thing, blue light emitted from things like televisions, smart phones and laptop screens keep your brain awake by delaying the release of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. Not only that, but if you are doing other activities in your bed other than sleep, such as watching television or reading a book, it can make it difficult for your brain to associate it with sleep. Try removing televisions from your bedroom, and reserve the bedroom for sleep only.
Your bedroom should be as dark as possible. If there is a light outside your window or lights in your bedroom that cannot be removed, then you may benefit from a sleep mask. Sleeping in complete darkness can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. You should also consider the temperature of your bedroom when you are sleeping. Most people sleep most comfortable in bedroom with temperatures in the 60's.
White noise can also help you stay asleep, as it drowns out the other noises in and around your house. A fan can help with this, and also provide air circulation in the room. If you don't like having a fan in your bedroom, see if you can download a white noise app on your smartphone, or purchase a white noise machine.
- Diffuse Relaxing Oils
Essential oils can provide a wide variety of health benefits, and diffusing proper ones in the evening and at night can help you relax. Some relaxing Young Living Essential Oils to consider are lavender, vanilla or jasmine. On the other hand, you may prefer to use a blend that is formulated especially for sleep. Diffusing two or three drops in your diffuser an hour or so before bedtime can reduce anxiety and get you ready for a good night's sleep.
- Exercise at the Right Time
Exercise is something that offers many benefits for your health. It can also help improve your sleep, but only if you do it at the right time. Exercising too close to bedtime can make it difficult to go straight to bed. Exercising daily, if possible, can offer you a better night's sleep for several reasons. Many people who exercise report lower anxiety levels. It also exerts a lot of energy physically, and that can make you feel more worn out and ready for bed at the end of the day.
- Work on Your Bedtime Routine
Just like going to bed at the same time every night can help you sleep better, so can sticking to a similar routine can help. This helps your brain associate certain actions with sleep. Give yourself time to relax before you go to bed. Even when you get home later than usual, you are likely going to have a harder time falling asleep if you go straight to bed. This is because your brain is likely still processing the events from the day, and isn't ready to shut down and go to sleep. About an hour or so before bed, consider staying away from screens, to eliminate exposure to blue light. If this isn't possible, get some orange tinted glasses that can help block out the blue light. Wear them anytime you are looking at a screen in the evening.
A small snack before bed can leave you feeling full throughout the night. This snack should be nice and light, so it isn't difficult for your stomach to digest. Something high in protein, such as a peanut butter sandwich or peanut butter crackers are a good choice.
- Consider the Comfort of Your Mattress
If you are tossing and turning all night, it may be because your mattress isn't comfortable enough. If you haven't replaced it in the last eight years or so, then you may want to consider investing in a new one. Also look at your pillows and blankets to see if a change should be made there. The type of mattress that works best for you will depend on your personal wants and needs. Going to a mattress store and lying on several mattresses may help you narrow down your choices.
These are all relatively simple things you can do to help improve your sleep. Making some of these changes will likely reduce the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep, and may reduce the amount of times you wake up throughout the night. Having an optimal sleep environment, diffusing relaxing oils and sticking to the same bedtime routine can help train your brain to fall asleep at the right time. Exercising every day can help you feel more tired and less stressed at the end of the day. Finally, having a comfortable bed should help reduce discomfort you may feel, helping you get a more restful sleep.
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Sometimes, the cause of poor sleep is medical. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Untreated sleep apnea prevents deep, restful sleep and increases the risk of other health problems. Snoring is a common sign of sleep apnea.
Along with diet and exercise, quality sleep is one of the most important components of a healthy lifestyle. If you’re practicing good sleep hygiene and still struggling with nighttime restlessness or daytime fatigue, it’s time to talk to a healthcare professional.
Chronic sleep problems may be a sign of an underlying health condition, and the sooner you get help, the sooner you can start enjoying quality rest.
If you think you have sleep apnea, contact Alaska Sleep Clinic for your free sleep assessment at any of our four sleep clinics in Alaska:
Soldotna Wasilla Fairbanks Anchorage