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Did you know that nearly 40 million Americans suffer from regular challenges with sleep? Difficulties with sleep have been linked to health concerns like depression, anxiety, heart disease, weight gain, and even Alzheimer’s. If you’re one of those 40 million — or even the 20 million suffering from infrequent sleep troubles — how can you improve your sleep without medications? We have seven tips from the experts that you can try right now, day or night.
The research is right there: more exercise leads to better sleep. The real question is why, and the answer produces a whole array of additional benefits. The US Department of Agriculture recommends that adults do a minimum of two and a half hours of exercise every week, the majority focusing on cardio and the rest on strength training. Not only will you sleep better because your body needs rest to recover, but you’ll also sleep better because exercise helps you produce serotonin, which can reduce your chances of letting anxiety, stress, or worry keep you up all night. In fact, watching your sleep improve is one of the best overall indicators that exercise is boosting your health. You can see the difference with an app like Sleep Time. You’ll get a detailed sleep analysis after every night’s sleep, so you can track the correlation yourself.
Embrace Technology (Carefully)
Technology, when used too much or incorrectly, can be one of the leading causes of sleep disruption and deprivation. However, for many people, when used carefully and in moderation, technology can unlock the secrets for a better night’s rest. Apps like Sleep Genius, which was developed for NASA astronauts, will walk your brain through a complete sleep cycle. If you are a snorer, and that’s what’s keeping you up at night, use your smartphone or tablet to record and analyze your snores with apps like SnoreLab. And for those who are struggling to settle down into sleep, apps like Relax Melody will lull you to sleep with relaxing songs, nature sounds, or binaural beats. Just be sure you’ve upgraded your phone and your plan to accommodate running more apps — you’ll need more storage and you might need more data.
Examine Your Diet
What and when you eat can have a major impact on your sleep, and vice versa. First, make practical decisions when it comes to your caffeine consumption. Sacrifice that afternoon cup of joe for a tea or water so you don’t feel jittery too close to bedtime. The same goes for chocolate, which contains caffeine. However, the foods you eat throughout the day can play a role in sleep — for better or worse. Almonds, kiwi, milk, cherries, and fish have all shown signs of being for the better, while spicy foods, alcohol, sugar, and foods with a lot of fat seem to be for the worst. A food journal can help you connect the dots between your sleep and diet, be it a pen and paper or an app like MyFitness Pal or SparkPeople.
Empty Your Mind
Many of us are kept up at night by ruminating thoughts and stresses we can seem to release. It’s not uncommon for stressful situations with work, school, family, and friends to keep us tossing and turning when we want to be snoozing. Emptying your mind with meditation and breathing techniques both before bed and during stressful encounters can help improve the length and quality of your sleep. Try simple breathing exercises like equal part breath or 4-7-8 relaxing breath. You can also use apps like Headspace and Calm, both of which offer meditation exercises for beginners, intermediates, and experts.
Better sleep and better health have a symbiotic relationship — the better your sleep the better your health and vice versa. That’s why trying one or all of these suggestions for sleep can help you improve your life and your health in many other ways.