Everyday people all over the world don’t get enough sleep. For example, poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in 2002 showed that approximately 74% of the population has trouble sleeping at some point in their lives. And the root of the problem might simply be our lifestyles.
Hectic work schedules, lack of downtime and the change in seasons can make anyone feel more stressed than usual, leading to nocturnal tossing and turning. Insomnia is associated with deficits in attention, concentration, memory and ability to stay 'on task.' It's also associated with impairments in social and occupational functioning, poor quality of life, increased risk of accidents or injuries, and higher health care costs.
Insomnia may also be associated with a number of other risks, such as the development of psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to weight gain and poorly functioning immune systems.
Here are 10 ways to improve your everyday sleep:
1. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco
Caffeinated drinks and food such as coffee, tea, sodas and chocolate will keep the mind stimulated much longer than some people think. And while alcohol may feel like it's putting you to sleep, its sedating effect won't last the whole night.
Nevertheless, here's what Gary Zammit, Ph.D. and director at the Sleep Disorders Institute at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York City had to say: "Wine is a sedative, as are all alcoholic drinks. However, as alcohol blood levels drop, sleep becomes disturbed. There also are real risks associated with the regular use of alcohol, including the development of patterns of abuse and dependence." It's the same with tobacco too--the best way to get some sleep is to avoid them all.
2. Use cognitive behavior therapy
An option that can be used alone or with a prescription medicine, Cognitive Behavior Therapy combines two forms of psychotherapy--cognitive therapy and behavior therapy--to help you overcome any mental and physical problems that may be causing insomnia. You should see a professional to get more information on how therapy can help conquer sleep.
3. Create a sleep-conductive environment
The room you sleep in is vital to getting rest. Make sure it is dark, clean and has good ventilation. Try to keep the air fresh and the room temperature between 60 and 65 degrees for the best sleeping conditions. Make sure you have the right amount of blankets and soft pillows. If it isn't comfortable, you aren't going to sleep.
4. Don’t nap during the day
It may sound contradictory because you're looking for ways to get sleep, but taking naps during the day may keep you up later at night. Try to avoid catnaps and get a good night of rest instead.
5. Exercise regularly
Working at the office might make you sweat mentally, but it's not giving your body enough work. People who work physically strenuous jobs experience fewer problems with insomnia than those with office jobs because their bodies feel exhaustion too. Try working out for as little as 20 minutes and your body will feel stimulated. Exercise will also help you get more oxygen to relax more. Remember not to exercise at least a couple of hours before bed so that you have time to wind down afterward.
6. Have a bedtime schedule
Your life may not be routine, but your body likes it that way. Try to fall asleep and wake at the same time each day--yes, even on the weekends. Figure out how many hours your body needs to feel rested and schedule your sleep that way, even on nights you don't feel tired--it's good practice and your body will appreciate it.
7. Keep bed a place for sleep
The bed should be for only one thing: sleep … well, two things--but only for sleep and sex. Many people tend to read, work, watch television, some even eat in their beds, but your mind should never associate it with anything else. Let your mind and body identify that comfy spot with sleep. Also, don't read or watch television at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Your mind will stay stimulated right after. The best way to fall asleep is to clear your mind of all thoughts--the last thing you want is to lie in bed awake and thinking. If that happens, get up and do something non-stimulating, then try falling asleep again.
8. Use medication
Insomnia stems from a number of reasons, and while it is usually due to stress or anxiety, it can be associated with physical disorders. If you find simple methods aren't helping you fall asleep, it's time to see a doctor. Though doctors will probably suggest sleep tips first, they can also prescribe drugs to assist you in sleeping. Always remember that medicines have potential side effects, and though they can help some people beat insomnia, they may not always work.
9. Use relaxation: massage, warm bath
There are plenty of ways to relax, yet not enough people do it. You can simply take a bath in warm water containing a cup of bath salts, as long as the water isn't too hot. A nice massage after work or even a quick back rub from your spouse can do the job. Relieving tension and stress will help you clear your mind before bed so you can concentrate on sleep and nothing else. Play soothing music--even ambient noise will drown out street noise--while aromatherapy also has relaxation qualities.
10. Drink warm tea or hot milk
Looks like Mom had it right when you were a kid. Milk contains calcium to help you relax, while the warmth is also soothing. But dairy products aren't always right for everyone--in that case, have a cup of tea. There are many herbal types that are made specifically for sleep aide, but chamomile, anise, fennel and lavender are known for their soothing and relaxing qualities.