The Sleep Geek
16 Steps to Better Sleep
- Keep track. Record how much and when you sleep, fatigue levels throughout the day, and any other symptoms. This serves two purposes: It can identify activities that help or hurt the chances of a good night’s rest, and it’s a useful tool for a doctor or therapist, should you decide to see one.
- Establish a regular bedtime routine. Find activities that help you wind down before bed, and stick to the same sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends.
- Use the bed appropriately. Beds should be reserved for sleep and nothing else. Bringing work into the bedroom is a sure-fire way to discourage sleep quality.
- · Choose the right mattress. Uncomfortable bedding has been linked to poorer sleep quality, while a comfortable mattress can up the chances of a satisfying snooze. Try testing some out at your local store to find the one that’s right for you.
- See a doctor. If you’ve tried everything and nothing’s worked, it might be time to consult a professional. A doctor can help rule out any sleep disorders and identify lifestyle factors or medications that might be getting in the way of a good night’s sleep.
- Exercise early in the day. Studies have found some aerobic activity can improve insomniacs’ sleep quality. For best results, exercise at least three hours before bedtime so the body has sufficient time to wind down before resting.
- Limit caffeine. It’s tempting to reach for coffee when we’re tired after a poor night’s sleep, but drinking caffeine can make it harder for us to fall asleep at night, creating a vicious cycle. Try limiting caffeine intake to earlier in the day so it’s out of your system by bedtime.
- · Eat for sleep. Eat foods high in magnesium, like halibut, almonds, cashews, and spinach, and foods high in vitamin B complex, like leafy green vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Some experts also recommend taking supplements.
- Try relaxation techniques. In one study, people who practiced meditation saw improvements in total sleep time and sleep quality. Other relaxation strategies—like yoga, deep breathing, and progressive relaxation—are also effective tools for promoting good sleep.
- Avoid large meals late in the evening. Jumbo meals pre-bedtime have been linked to trouble falling asleep.
- Dim the lights two hours before bed. According to one study, exposure to electrical lights between dusk and bedtime might negatively affect our chances at quality sleep. Assuming you don’t want to sit in the dark for hours, find the happy medium by dimming the lights as bedtime draws near.
- Don’t drink alcohol right before bed. This might seem like an obvious choice for calming down pre-bedtime, but it can actually disrupt sleep cycles later in the night. You don’t have to give up the good stuff completely; just drink it with dinner.
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, affecting an estimated 20% of people.
Typical symptoms are:
- problems falling asleep
- problems staying asleep (so that you wake up several times each night)
- waking up too early
- daytime sleepiness, anxiety, impaired concentration and memory and irritability
Nightmares are intense, frightening dreams often related to events or experiences in your life. Night terrors occur during deep sleep. Night terrors cause a deep sense of fear, an increase in your heart rate and sweating. You may also scream, shout or cry in your sleep. Often, people find it difficult to wake up from a night terror and afterwards have little or no memory of what has happened.
Sleep paralysis is when you wake up in the night and cannot move or speak because there are still sleep hormones in your muscles. It usually lasts between a couple of seconds and a few minutes may lead to anxiety about falling back to sleep.
Sleep walking involves getting up in the night and walking or moving around. Sometimes you may carry out activities, such as tidying or washing up. Sleep walking is not usually a problem, unless you injure yourself by banging into things or tripping over.
- ·Don’t try to sleep unless you’re sleepy. Yes, it sucks when it’s 2 a.m. and you still don’t feel tired, despite knowing you need rest. But climbing into bed when you don’t feel ready for sleep is setting yourself up for failure. Instead, engage in relaxing activities (like gentle yoga and meditation or listening to soothing music) until you get the strong urge to snooze. If sleep hasn’t come within 20 minutes, get back out of bed and try relaxing activities again until you’re sleepy enough to give it another go.
- Minimize disturbing noises. If external noises are beyond your control (a busy street outside the window, a neighbour’s barking dog), cover them up with the sound of a bedside fan, a white noise machine, or other sounds that help us sleep.
- Try a hot bath or shower. Stepping from warm water into that pre-cooled bedroom will cause body temperatures to drop slightly, which can trigger sleepy feelings by slowing down metabolic activity.
- Sip some hot milk. Science doesn’t necessarily back the idea that milk facilitates snoozing, but conventional wisdom might be strong enough that our minds still believe milk helps us drift off...