Six Steps for Better Sleep

Do you toss and turn at night, or feel listless and lethargic when going about your day? Chances are, you’re lacking in sleep. Most doctors recommend 8 hours of sleep a night, but with cellphones, instant messaging, and 24/7 access to media of every kind these days, lack of slumber is a condition that’s become all too common. Unfortunately for your late night binge-watching sessions, sleep is the means by which our body recharges and refreshes itself, and one thing you can’t do without.

Here are some tips to help you get that good night’s rest your mind and body need:

 

#1        SET A BEDTIME

The body’s ways of telling us when we need sleep are dependent on two factors: sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock. Sleep/wake homeostasis is the means by which the body balances the amount of sleep we get against the number of hours we’ve been awake. Without it, we’d probably just be awake all the time. The circadian biological clock, on the other hand, dictates the times of day when we are most awake and alert, or sluggish and weary, and is also based on the amount of sleep we’ve gotten. The best way to regularize the two is to practice regular sleeping and waking hours by setting a definite time to sleep and wake up. This may sound difficult at first, but once you’ve established a routine, you’ll be amazed by how refreshed you feel!

 

#2        AVOID EATING BIG MEALS BEFORE GOING TO BED

Try and have earlier dinners while taking care to avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bedtime. Spicy or acidic foods can disagree with your stomach, resulting in untimely trips to the toilet or instances of heartburn. Give yourself time to digest your food properly to avoid any unscheduled awakenings in the middle of the night!

 

#3        AVOID SCREENS AT BEDTIME

From smartphones to televisions, multiple screen culture is part of our everyday lives. Studies have shown that the blue spectrum of light from our devices has a tendency to disrupt normal sleeping patterns, resulting in a less-than-rested feeling upon waking up. This can be avoided by shutting off your devices before bedtime and making a conscious effort to go to sleep, rather than fall asleep halfway through browsing, watching, or posting online.

 

#4        HAVE THE RIGHT MATTRESS AND PILLOW

It’s amazing how many people miss this one seemingly obvious detail: if you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to sleep well. We’re not saying you need to put money into some high-end imported memory foam, but you certainly need the right mix of softness and firmness ideal for supporting your body weight, type, and preferred sleeping position. According to a study comparing sleep quality from subjects sleeping on old (older than 5 years) mattresses with those taken from the same subjects sleeping on new mattresses, researchers noted a “significant decrease in stress” linked to a marked increase in sleep quality and decrease in pain associated with the newer beds.

 

#5        WHITE NOISE

Just as some people fall asleep more easily than others, there are those who aren’t awakened as easily, or jostled to alertness by the slightest sound or distraction. This can be countered with the use of white noise, a somewhat rhythmic sound designed to help you block out the rest of the world when an oasis of calm is called for.

According to the Division of Sleep at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center director Carl Brazil, MD, “White noise machines decrease distraction by covering up noises that could keep you awake.

To this end, you could buy a pricey white noise machine, or just download a white noise app for your phone, such as these.

 

#6        TRY A NIGHTCAP

Sometimes, you really can’t go wrong with the classics. As far as wholesome nightcaps go, nothing beats the instinctive comfort from a warm cup of heated milk at the end of a long day to calm you down and put you in the mood for bedtime. Some say this is because of milk’s natural tryptophan content, but in actuality, it’s the warm temperature raising your own that has a natural calming effect. While it’s been speculated that this is because we are reminded of our time in the womb, all we know is, there’s nothing quite like a good night’s rest.