A large percentage of American adults experience sleep issues, including sleep disturbances, trouble falling asleep, feeling unrefreshed after a night of sleep and insomnia. If you’re one of the 70 million people who struggle to achieve restful sleep, it can feel distressing to spend night after night tossing and turning on your pillow knowing you have a busy day ahead of you when the sun rises.
There are a number of reasons you may find it difficult to sleep throughout the night. Fortunately, many sleep problems are solvable through simple lifestyle changes. Discover how you can make a few simple changes to encourage a better night’s rest.
Create a Soothing Environment
Today’s bedrooms serve multiple purposes. Thanks to innovations in portable technology, your bedroom might function as a workspace, reading area, movie night location and game night site as you bring your laptops, tablets or phones into the space initially designed for naps and shuteye. Though your room is a comfortable place to relax and enjoy all sorts of hobbies, many of these activities may make it harder for your system to switch gears when it’s time to go to bed.
According to sleep experts, your bed should be reserved for sleep and intimacy. The more you can associate your bed and your bedroom with sleep, the easier it will be to transition away from daytime activities and into a state of relaxation. As well, your bedroom should be kept quiet, dark and at a cool, optimal sleeping temperature, especially after the sun goes down.
As you prepare your room for sleep, consider whether your mattress, blankets, pillows and other bedding material are comfortable and conducive to slumber. Though you may not realize it as it’s happening, an uncomfortable mattress can place pressure on your joints and muscles, causing you to wake up throughout the night. Look for a mattress with the right firmness level, and make sure to choose bedding that will keep you cool and comfortable all night long.
Commit to a Schedule
When it comes to your body’s daily rhythms, your system wants to know what to expect at particular times throughout the day. If you find yourself retiring for the night at different times depending on what you have going on that evening, or if you just wanted to watch one more episode of the show you’ve been binging, you may find it difficult to transition to a sleepy state, even if the clock struck midnight a while ago.
Your body’s sleep-wake cycle, also known as your circadian rhythm, relies on both internal and external cues in order to establish reliable patterns that let your system know when it’s time to be alert and active and when it’s time to start settling in for the night. A consistent schedule gives this mechanism the best chance of success, as the more you stick to a regular routine, the more your body will start to wind down automatically as it nears bedtime.
Consider when you have to be up in the morning and set a bedtime for yourself that will allow you to get at least seven hours of sleep per night, though you may need up to nine in order to feel refreshed. If you struggle with regular sleep issues, it’s important to stick to this bedtime, and the time you get up in the morning, as closely as possible no matter what, even on weekends. That way, you can train your body to expect rest at certain times, which may make it easier to get longer, better-quality sleep.
Get Regular Exercise
Research has shown that those who get regular physical activity tend to sleep more soundly throughout the night. Exercise can help you to expend extra energy, relieve stress, generate fatigue and provide an emotional outlet for you, all of which can make it easier to sleep at night.
When you do exercise, make sure to complete any vigorous workouts at least three hours before bedtime, as any later could make it hard to regulate your body temperature and settle your energy levels into a casual, serene state.
Establish a Routine
Many people turn the TV on after dinner to wind down after a stressful day. While this is a great way to shut out any work stresses and household responsibilities you have on your plate, screen use too close to your bedtime can invigorate your system and make it more challenging to find relaxation if you climb into bed shortly after shutting off your devices.
Your system benefits from a regular bedtime routine that incorporates quiet, soothing activities designed to relax your body and mind. At least 30 minutes before it’s time for bed, cut off any screen use and choose relaxing activities such as listening to music, yoga, meditation, reading, deep breathing or journaling. Try to choose some of the same activities each night so your body becomes accustomed to them as signals that it’s time to start getting sleepy.
Good sleep hygiene, or practices that put your system in the best place for rest, is crucial for restful sleep. Prioritize steps such as brushing your teeth, putting on pajamas, getting a drink of water and fluffing your pillows so these habits become associated with a sense of nighttime calm and comfort.
Relax and Unwind
Many sleep issues are caused by racing thoughts and lingering anxiety about work, social obligations, family life and daily chores. Clear your mind as much as you can before it’s time for bed by setting a cutoff time in which you stop worrisome or anxious thoughts and, instead, choose activities and materials that take your mind off the things that weigh heavily on your head.
Watch Your Intake
It’s widely known that caffeine ingested far too late in the day has a good chance of keeping you up at night. However, several other aspects of your diet can also interfere with your ability to fall and remain asleep at night. Nighttime snacks, especially those with added sugars, simple carbohydrates or unhealthy fats, can cause a blood sugar spike that will prevent your body from truly entering the “rest and digest” zone you need to be in for sleep.
Drinking too many fluids late in the day can also prevent you from sleeping throughout the night, making you get up to go to the bathroom when you should be in dreamland. Because juices and caffeinated beverages can keep you awake, they should be consumed no later than six hours before bedtime. Though it’s considered a depressant for your system, alcohol can also disrupt your sleep and has been shown to reduce the quality of rest you experience through the night.
If you live in Alaska and have trouble getting the sleep you need, call the Alaska Sleep Clinic today. Find out why Alaskans voted us the 2021-22 Best Sleep Lab in the state. Improve your sleep. Improve your life.