Most of us strive to get our 7-8 hours of nightly sleep to keep healthy and energized. But are you getting the most out of your 8 hours? If you spend the first hour or two tossing and turning, you are likely to spend the night frustrated and wake up tired. If you don’t fall asleep right away you are missing out on the benefits of a full night’s sleep, but there are ways to break this cycle and ensure that when you go to sleep, you actually go to sleep.
This one should be a no-brainer, there are so many reasons to get regular exercise. In addition to the other benefits like living longer, feeling and looking better, and improved self-esteem, having a daily or semi-daily exercise routine has been shown to help you fall asleep faster. Just make sure not to exercise within two hours of bedtime: late night workouts can energize you and keep you awake.
If you go to bed and wake up at different times every night, your body is going to be all kinds of confused. It’s tempting to stay up late and sleep in on the weekends, but doing so will make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you go to bed and wake up at around the same time every day, your body will get used to this routine and it will be much easier to fall right to sleep.
If you are the type of person who likes to hang out in bed and do things like read, watch TV, do crosswords, or eat (gross!) you could be sabotaging the quality of your sleep by hanging out in bed. You should only be doing one thing in your bed, and that’s sleep. This will condition your body to understand that once your head hits the pillow, it’s go-time (go to sleep, that is).
Another great way to condition your body to fall asleep quickly is to have a short but regular bedtime ritual that you perform every night before bed. It could be reading for fifteen minutes, a short breathing exercise, brushing your hair, making a to-do list for the next day, or stretching. If you create a ritual like this and stick to it, after a while this activity will let your body know that it’s bed time and you will fall asleep easier.
Your eating habits could be part of the reason you’re not sleeping well at night. If you go to bed on a full stomach, you are going to have a harder time falling asleep and you are more likely to have interrupted sleep. You should eat dinner early; at least three hours before going to bed.
Conversely going to bed starving can affect your sleep as well, it’s okay to have a small snack about an hour before bedtime; avoid high-carb foods. A few slices of cold cut turkey or a warm glass of milk will fight hunger and help you sleep better.
If you’ve heeded all these tips and are still having chronic problems falling asleep or staying asleep, you should probably see a sleep doctor or sleep therapist. Some symptoms for which you should DEFINITELY see a specialist include:
-Chronic sleepiness and fatigue regardless of how much you sleep
-Problems breathing at night, including loud snoring or paused breath
-Constant waking headaches
-Narcolepsy (falling asleep unexpectedly)