Even though getting good sleep is essential for maintaining good health, the truth is that many adults are struggling to get the rest they need each night. This can be detrimental for many reasons. In the short term, a lack of sleep can cause symptoms like brain fog and grogginess.
In the long term, a lack of quality sleep can lead to more serious health issues like heart disease, diabetes, depression, and stroke. While it may not always be easy to get the quality of sleep that you need, the good news is that there are many simple steps you can take to start improving your sleep quality and health naturally.
Start a Relaxing Nighttime Ritual
A good way to start getting better sleep is to begin finding ways to get mentally and physically prepared for bed. Starting a regular ritual that relaxes you can be an effective way to get yourself in gear to sleep deeply. While it may feel strange at first, doing something calming each night can signal to your brain that it is time to rest.
Additionally, the good news is that there are many different things that can be effective at helping you unwind. One way to calm down at night is to listen to music that relaxes you. Some other things that can be great for getting calm can include drinking hot tea, doing gentle stretches, taking a hot bath or reading a book.
Have a Comfortable Sleeping Environment
Along with doing calming activities at night, it is also essential to make sure that you have a comfortable sleeping environment. If your bedroom is too bright, noisy, or hot, it can quickly make it difficult to fall asleep deeply. If your bedroom has too much natural light, then wearing a sleep mask can be a good idea. If that doesn't work for you, then trying out room darkening blinds or curtains may be beneficial.
If your room is too noisy, then addressing the cause of the noise can be important for getting better sleep. In some cases where you may not be able to prevent the noise, getting noise-canceling panels can be helpful, as can investing in some high-quality earplugs. If you frequently find yourself feeling too hot at night, then you may want to consider changing your bedding for something more lightweight.
Additionally, a mattress or pillow that has cooling foam could be another helpful option. Yet another way to make sure that you are comfortable at night is to lower your thermostat before going to bed.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Even though you may not realize it, your diet can play a big role in how easy it is for you to fall asleep at night. When you eat foods that are highly processed, you may also be consuming lots of additives and extra sugars that are difficult for your body to process, and that can also throw your hormones off balance. When your hormones are out of whack, it can cause you to feel tired during the day, and then wide awake at night when you should be ready to nod off.
By taking the time to assess your diet, you can get a better picture of how healthy it is, and what areas you could improve in. Over time, you can begin to include more fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as leafy greens and lean protein. Along with including more healthy foods, you also need to make sure that you are paying attention to the times that you eat, too. If you skip breakfast, you can cause your body to produce more stress hormones, which can mean a more difficult time sleeping. Additionally, eating too late in the evening can put extra stress on your digestive system, and keep you awake as your body works to process food, rather than allowing you to rest.
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Just as you begin watching what you eat, you also need to make sure that you are watching the beverages that you consume, too. This is particularly important when it comes to caffeine and alcohol. Even though many enjoy caffeinated drinks because they get them up and going in the mornings, the reality is that they are a nervous system stimulant. Because they are nervous system stimulants, they can not only help you wake up early in the day, but they can keep you wide awake at night, too. By limiting your caffeine intake to the early part of the day, you can help ensure that the coffee you drank won't be preventing you from getting the shut-eye you need. Another beverage that you need to be cautious with if you want to sleep well is alcohol.
Even though some may think that it is helpful for relaxing and that it helps them sleep, the reality is that it can actually cause you to get poor sleep. Even though it may be possible to fall asleep easily after consuming alcohol, it is usually more difficult to stay asleep after drinking.
This is due to the fact that alcohol disrupts sleep cycles. Ultimately, this means lighter sleep, and more fragmented sleep, too. While a drink or two might not be harmful if you want to get quality sleep it may be better to avoid drinking alcohol before bed altogether.
Learn To Curb Your Stress
Your stress levels can be a huge factor in how deeply you are able to sleep at night. When you are experiencing stress, whether it is primarily emotional or physical, it causes your body to produce stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones tend to make you feel alert, which may be helpful in a stressful situation, but can cause problems when you are trying to unwind and go to bed.
While it may not be possible to prevent stress from entering your life, finding ways to curb it can make a big difference. One effective way to help keep stress under control is to begin practicing mindfulness, or meditation. Meditation can not only help to relax your nervous system in the moment when you are feeling stressed, but over time regular practice may even help your brain to become more resistant to stress as well.
Even though good sleep plays a huge role in having good health, there are still many adults that struggle to get a good night's sleep. The upside is that improving your sleep quality isn't impossible and that there are many straightforward and natural ways to start feeling and sleeping better tonight.
Impaired sleep can seriously affect your quality of life and productivity. Behavioral changes implemented under the guidance of an experienced clinician can improve sleep quality and help you feel more alert and functional on a regular basis. Sleep is a third of your life – make it count!
Alaska Sleep Clinic is the most comprehensive multisite sleep lab in Alaska with clinics in Anchorage, Wasilla, Fairbanks, and Soldotna and we continue to expand our services to those with sleep disorders.
Angie Randazzo, Ph.D., is a specialist in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with expertise in sleep disorders. No other CBT sleep specialist provides care in the state of Alaska. She is available to Alaska Sleep Clinic’s patients via telemedicine, through SleepTM.