By Richard Shane, PhD and Founder of Sleep Easily
We long to live a healthy and effective life, yet we’re often too stressed or overwhelmed to take actions to improve our lives. What if there was one change that would almost automatically improve many areas of your life? Better sleep is that change. Good sleep can improve your cognitive functioning and can decrease anxiety, depression, anger and irritability, and even improve your sex drive. You’ll have more energy, increased productivity and likely improve the quality of your personal relationships. In addition, improving your sleep can result in better immune system functioning, decreased risk for weight gain, obesity and diabetes, and reduced risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Those are a lot of benefits that come from just one change—better sleep.
But how do you sleep better? Below are simple behavior changes, called sleep hygiene, that can help you sleep:
Intake of Food, Drink and Substances
- Avoid caffeine (including chocolate and caffeinated sodas) six hours before bedtime.
- If you smoke, don’t smoke too close to bedtime, as nicotine is a stimulant.
- Limit your alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks per day, and avoid alcohol within three hours of bedtime. When you drink alcohol right before bed, the alcohol wears off in the middle of the night, causing early awakenings.
- Drink enough water during the day so you are not very thirsty at bedtime. If you need to drink before bed or in the middle of the night, drink as small amount as possible.
- Have your last full meal several hours before bedtime to allow for digestion. Avoid spicy foods or foods that cause indigestion.
- If you need a snack before bed, find which foods—carbohydrates, dairy or small amount of protein—don’t disturb your sleep.
During the Day
- Get out into sunlight at least 15 minutes each day.
- Exercise, but not too close to bedtime.
- Limit naps for 30-45 minutes (set an alarm) and nap no later than early afternoon.
- Ensure your mattress, pillows, and bedding are comfortable.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool.
- Turn your clock so it is facing away from you. Clock watching increases stress, making it harder to sleep.
- Strengthen the association of your bed with sleep: Limit bedroom activities to sleep and sex. Keep computers, TVs, and work materials out of your bedroom.
- Follow a regular sleep and wake schedule. That helps regulate your body clock so sleep is easier.
- Have your house lights be dim in the evening. Installing dimmer switches on lights allows you to function in lower light and lower light is calming and attractive.
- Slow down an hour before bed with a bath, reading something calming, or stretching.
- Avoid stimulating activities like doing work or discussing emotional issues just before bedtime.
- Television, computer, cell phone and tablets emit a blue-white light that interferes with your brain’s production of melatonin - the sleep hormone. Blue-blocking glasses help block blue light and are available online.
- Stop using computer, cell phone, and tablet 30 minutes before bed.
In addition to the above suggestions, there are simple steps you can use when your head is on your pillow—steps that make it easier to fall asleep, fall back to sleep and sleep more deeply. For these special tips visit our Sleep Easily Website, sleepeasily.com/tips