Good Night, Sleep Tight

Five tips for a better night’s rest.

Tossing and turning. Eyes wide open. Mind going a mile a minute. Sound familiar? Not being able to sleep is one of life’s most frustrating experiences. When the alarm finally goes off, it’s not only a struggle to get out of bed, but it’s tough to focus and be productive throughout the day.

A good, solid seven to eight hours of sleep each night aren’t just for beauty rest. Your body needs sleep for a lot of reasons. Sleep helps protect you from disease, improves your mood, lowers your chance of injury, helps with appetite control, strengthens your immune system, and improves your memory and mental function.

Tonight, take these steps toward a better night’s rest and see if they make a difference.

Get On a Schedule

Your body has what’s called a circadian rhythm. It’s your natural wake-sleep cycle that works best when on a regular schedule. This is why Monday mornings can be so difficult. You stayed up late and slept in late all weekend and your body began to adjust to a new schedule. Suddenly, it’s being forced to wake up early, and your body doesn’t like it. Do yourself a favor and go to bed and wake up around the same time every day of the week.

Turn Down the Lights

Part of your circadian rhythm functioning properly has to do with light and darkness. Your body gets the signal it’s time to sleep when things are dark and that it’s time to wake up with the sunlight. Dim the lights around the house and turn off screens (cell phones, computers, and televisions) that emit light an hour or two before bed. This tells your brain to produce melatonin, a hormone that triggers sleep. Then in the morning, expose yourself to bright light or sunlight to tell your body and mind to wake up and get going.

Watch Out for Caffeine and Nicotine

Your morning coffee is a great way to shake off sleep and power up for the day. But did you know caffeine can stay in your system and affect your sleep for up to six hours? This means that cup of coffee after dinner, the energy drink to help you study, a piece of chocolate cake for dessert, or the caffeine found in certain pain medications and weight-loss drugs can all hinder you from getting a good night’s rest.

Like caffeine, the nicotine found in cigarettes is a stimulant that makes sleep elusive. Want better sleep and a longer, healthier life? Quit the habit.

Be Wise about Alcohol

A glass of wine with dinner or a drink in the evening to help you unwind seem completely harmless, but it may come back to haunt you in the middle of the night. Alcohol is a depressant drug, so it aids in relaxation, slows your nervous system, and can make you feel sleepy. While these effects may promote sleep at bedtime, when they wear off you’ll be waking up on and off throughout the night. A cup of warm milk or decaffeinated herbal tea is a better option.

Learn to Manage Stress

Stress and anxiety will keep you up at night. Your body may be physically tired, but your mind is alert and wide awake. When you can’t stop thinking about the fight with your best friend, an important meeting at work, or your long to-do list, it’s hard to relax.

When stress is keeping you up at night, it’s time to make some changes. First, be sure you get enough physical activity. Exercise is a great stress-reliever, and when done early in the day it helps you sleep better. Second, take time to relax before bed. Take a hot bath, listen to peaceful music, or read a book. Third, keep a journal by your bed. Before turning off the light, write down what’s on your mind, all your great ideas, your fears, and your worries. They can all wait until tomorrow.