Many people find getting a sound night’s sleep to be the exception rather than the rule. Some struggle to fall asleep, others nod off quickly but wake up in the middle of the night, and a third group awakens early never to return to the winks. Most experts claim that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep, but they qualify their opinions based on age, activity, personality, and the level of sleep deficit.
I feel best when I get eight hours of sleep, but I do fine on seven. I am convinced, however, that getting quality sleep is an important part of a plan for optimal health. Following are sixteen tips for getting a sound night’s sleep:
1. Reduce Your Stress Level.
Worrying about the messy matters of life is a major contributor to sleepless nights. If you suceed in reducing or eliminating stress, you will have taken an important first step toward returning to full nights of sleep.
2. Avoid Ingesting Caffeine Before Hitting The Sack.
Coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks, and other caffeine-based stimulants work bad magic on us and delay, interrupt, or perturb our sleep. While caffeine may have some positive health effects, most experts agree that it affects sleep in some way. Many hardcore coffee drinkers claim they can have a cup of Juan Valdez’s best in the evening with impunity, but a shocking number of them have health problems. I try to limit my intake of coffee to a cup a day, and I never drink the leaded stuff after lunchtime.
3. Exercise Every Day.
Walking is an excellent, soft-impact solution to your exercise needs. I walk an hour and fifteen minutes daily and usually tack on some other physical activity, such as weight lifting, stretching, dancing, or working around the house. Unquestionably, an hour a day of vigorous exercise will help you get a better night’s sleep.
4. Don’t Eat Late At Night.
Eat dinner at least three hours before going to bed. Dining too late may keep you awake, and some foods and alcoholic beverages can cause you to awaken after falling asleep. Also, try to limit your intake of water, milk, juices, and soft drinks in the evening. Drinking liquids too late can cause you to have to get up to go to the bathroom, thus interrupting your sleep.
5. Arrange For Quiet Evenings.
Listening to loud music and watching television tend to key you up and make sleeping difficult. Television is exciting by design, and the news is calculated to engage, shock, and rile viewers. It’s no mystery that folks in our modern society struggle to get a good night’s sleep.
6. Avoid Smoking Cigarettes And Drinking Liquor In The Evening.
If you’ve ever had a glass of wine late in the evening and suddenly found yourself wide awake at 3:00 a.m., you know what alcohol can do to you. Some people claim to sleep better after having a couple of drinks, but many others wake up in the middle of the night after doing so. This is because alcohol raises your blood-sugar level, and later, when the level drops, the adrenal glands secrete a hormone to increase it, producing energy and waking you up. Nicotine also disturbs sleeping patterns, and setting a time after which you neither smoke nor drink will help you find your rhythm for sleeping again.
7. Avoid Taking Prescription Drugs.
Many prescription drugs make you drowsy, but even so, taking them can throw your system out of balance and make sleeping difficult. A quality life includes weaning yourself from everything that does not contribute to a healthy body and mind. Consult your physician about establishing a plan for reducing your dependence on prescription drugs.
8. Say No To Over-The-Counter Sleeping Aids.
If you cannot fall asleep, or if you awaken in the wee hours, stay in bed or read. Lying quietly in darkness has value, although not nearly so much as actual sleep, and reading often will help you fall asleep again. I can’t tell you how many books I have read between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m., but the number is significant. Fortunately, I usually nod off again, and even on a rough night, my total is usually six hours or more.
9. Keep A Journal.
The ups and downs of life can interrupt your sleep significantly. Even if you are not thinking about your problems when you awaken, they can be the real reason behind your sleeplessness. Writing about your life in a journal will help you in conscious and unconscious ways, and the result will almost certainly be sounder sleep. Do this on a consistent basis, and you will increase the number of your nights of good sleep.
10. Drink Plenty Of Water.
Water is a symbol of the unconscious mind and a powerful force in our outer and inner lives. The body’s cells are mostly water, and replenishing them with it will improve your health and contribute to your sleeping soundly.
11. Listen To Music.
Music works magic on the soul, and its soothing effect will help you sleep. You might choose to play some tranquil melodies as you prepare dinner or as you read or do some other restful thing to quiet your mind and body in the evening. I find the violin to have a calming effect on me, but for you, it may be some other instrument or voice.
12. Make Sure Your Mattress Is Good.
A firm mattress can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a bad one. If yours is getting soft, lumpy, or saggy, it might be time to replace it.
13. Keep The Lights Low At Night.
Unless you’ve decided to read, keep the lights low when you get up at night. Well placed nightlights make it easier to avoid using brighter overhead lighting. If you plan ahead, you can reduce the light you need to get about, and the interruption to your sleep will diminish.
14. Write Down Your Dreams.
Part of the cure for insomnia can come from paying attention to your dreams. Even if you don’t engage in dream analysis, you can gain from simply recording your dreams. This, when combined with journaling, can contribute wonderfully to conquering your sleeplessness.
15. Maintain A Regular Schedule.
We are creatures of habit, and we have internal clocks that help us with the routine of daily life. Setting a consistent bedtime and waking time will help signal to your body and mind that sleep is part of your daily plan.
16. Avoid Naps, Unless You Are Sleep Deprived.
Taking naps can help or hurt your nighttime sleeping patterns, depending on the level of your sleep deprivation. If you are sleep deprived, napping from time to time can help you catch up. If you are not, and you have trouble sleeping at night, avoiding naps is the best practice.
Doing the things on this list should help you get a good night’s sleep. Start with some of the simpler sleeping tips, and once you master them, add the others one by one. Before weaning yourself from any prescription drugs, work with your physician to create a safe plan for doing so. In the end, you will sleep, perhaps not exactly as you did when you were a kid with no responsibilities, but soundly enough to be healthy and have a quality life.