Want to feel better during the day? The secret may be more (and better!) sleep at night. Want to improve your nightly sleep? The key may lie in what you do during the day. Either way, these tips can help.
Keep a regular sleep schedule
Consistency is important. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each night can help you feel refreshed and energized.
- Set and stick to a bedtime. Select a time when you normally feel tired and go to bed at that time each night, even on weekends.
- Wake up at a consistent time. Try to maintain a regular wake time every day of the week.
- Power nap to recoup lost sleep. Sleeping late can unbalance your natural sleep/wake rhyme. Pay off any “sleep debt” with a daytime power nap instead. (No more than 30 minutes in the late morning or early afternoon.)
- Fight the late afternoon drowsiness. If you find yourself getting sleepy before bedtime, get up and do something mildly stimulating. Wash dishes. Call a friend. Organize your clothes for tomorrow. But don’t go to sleep early.
Make your bedroom sleep-friendly
Your bedroom environment makes a difference in not just how long you sleep, but how well.
- Minimize noise. A white noise machine or even the whir of the ceiling fan may help you sleep but most other noises disrupt sound sleep.
- Keep your room cool and dark. Even dim lights—from a TV or computer screen—can confuse your body clock. Utilize heavy curtains or a sleep mask to block light. Keep the temperature around 65 degrees.
- Make sure your bed is comfortable. Your bed should be large enough so you and your spouse can stretch and turn comfortably. Try different firmnesses of mattresses and pillows and foam or egg crate toppers, until your bed is just how you like it.
Establish a bedtime routine
A peaceful bedtime routine sends a message to your brain that it’s time to unwind and let go of the stresses of the day.
- Turn off the television. TV stimulates the brain. If you’re in the habit of falling asleep with it on, set a timer to turn it off for you.
- Reserve your bed for sleeping. Don’t surf the net or pay bills in bed. Let your body know bed is for sleeping and, when you’re there, it’s time to nod off.
- Institute a bedtime routine. Read a magazine. Take a bath. Do some stretching. Enjoy light music. Once your body gets the message this is how you unwind before sleep, it will learn to oblige.
Exercise and eat right
What you do and eat, especially just before sleep, play a vital role in how well you sleep at night.
- Forego big nighttime meals. No rich, fatty or heavy foods for two hours before bed. They can keep your body busy digesting. No spicy or acidic foods that might cause tummy problems or heartburn.
- Avoid alcohol before bed. Alcohol reduces sleep quality. Though it may help you fall asleep faster, it often wakes you up later in the night.
- Cut down on caffeine. Caffeine can cause sleep problems up to twelve hours after drinking it.
- Limit liquids in the evening. Lots to drinks relate to frequent bathroom trips.
- Quit smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant, which disrupts sleep, and many smokers experience nicotine withdrawal as the night progresses.
- Exercise. Regular exercise in the morning or early evening will help you sleep deeper and longer at night. Aim for 30 minutes a day, which can be broken up into smaller increments.
These Relaxation Techniques Can Help
Relaxation techniques before bed help you wind down, calm your mind and prepare you for sleep.
- Deep breathing. Close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths, each a little deeper than the last.
- Muscle relaxation. Starting at your toes and progressing to your scalp, tense muscles as tightly as you can, then relax.
- Visualize a peaceful, restful place. Close your eyes and imagine a calming and peaceful place or activity. Concentrate on how relaxed you feel.