10 Rules for Better Sleep
|By Petra Trudell, Managing Editor on Friday, July 5, 2013|
|Are you having trouble falling asleep at night? There could be some simple steps you're missing to get your best ZZZZ's.||
There's no such thing as being a good or bad sleeper. Since we're all unique, we all have different needs when it comes to sleep.
Not getting enough sleep can have negative side effects on your health, including weight gain, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system and stress (and all the bad things that come with that). If you're a woman going through menopause, it can also make your symptoms worse.
But before you get a prescription, try some of these simple tricks to get the best ZZZZ's of your life:
1. Stay cool.
The temperature of your bedroom is one of the most important factors for good sleep. An average recommendation from experts is to keep the room's temperature between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, although your final number is based on individual preference. Some may want it even cooler. Keep a window open or run a fan to keep from cranking the AC. Your sheets also matter, too. The higher the thread count, the more luxurious, but these sheets also hold in the most heat, which can be particularly unpleasant if you suffer from hot flashes or night sweats.
2. Keep it dark.
Blocking out as much light as possible supports healthy melatonin levels, the hormone that recognizes darkness and lets you know it's time to sleep. An eye mask or blackout shades can help you keep out the obvious light, what comes in naturally, but you should also remember other sources of light in your room, such as your cell phone, clock or television, if you leave one on. They can all mess with your sleep cycle. Powering down at night is important, which we'll get to in a minute, but something as simple as facing your clock away from you can help.
3. Avoid stimulants.
While coffee before bed may seem like an obvious no-no, it could be your afternoon or post-dinner coffee that could be keeping you awake at night. Caffeine after 3 p.m. can keep you tossing and turning, so avoid it in the afternoon whenever possible. To boost your energy without caffeine, have a healthy snack that includes protein, take a short walk around your home or office, drink water and stretch. Fruit also contains natural sugars that could help put some pep in your step. Grab an apple, which is also packed with fiber to keep you full until dinner.
4. Take your minerals.
You're always hearing to take your vitamins, but minerals are another essential component to health. Not only do minerals like calcium and magnesium strengthen the bones and muscles of the body, but they also play a big role in the health of the central nervous system. These minerals help your body produce energy properly to keep you going during the day but then also help calm your nerves later on for better sleep. Taking your daily calcium and magnesium supplement before bed may help you unwind and fall asleep.
5. Stretch it out.
You don't have to do a 50-minute yoga routine to get the benefits of stretching before bed. Doing a few simple moves before bed can help you release any tension in your body for improved relaxation. Either laying on the bed or on the floor, try reaching your toes, stretching side to side and twisting. One simple twist is to lay on your back, bend one knee into your chest and then draw the bent to the floor across the opposite leg, keeping your shoulders and back as flat to the ground/bed as possible.
6. Power down.
When it comes to electronics, turn it all off before you head to bed. Shut off your computer, television and any other unnecessary items for sleeping. Turn the sound off on your phone except your alarm, if you use it to get up in the morning, otherwise, leave it to charge in another room so you forget about it. The light and noise can be distracting, plus the reminders of everything you have to do the next day. You don't want to drag through the day because you were up all night playing with an app "trying to fall asleep."
7. Keep a routine.
While having a bedtime may make you feel like a little kid, your body will thank you for it. A perk of adulthood may be staying up until 2 a.m. watching whatever you want on television or shopping online, but it doesn't mean it's good for you. The average adult needs seven or eight hours of sleep a night, so set yourself a bed time that reflects that, giving you enough time for whatever you like to do in the morning, like work out. Once you've done that, stick to it, even on the weekend. While sleeping in may feel amazing when you do it, it's also the reason Monday mornings are such a bummer. You may need to change your routine around if you consider yourself a night owl.
8. Add an herbal.
Prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids can have dangerous side effects, especially addiction. Natural solutions have been used for years, providing the same results in a more safe form that is non-habit forming. Valerian root, passionflower and chamomile (in capsule or tea form) can help you relax, relieving stress and anxiety to help you turn off your mind. Melatonin, on the other hand, should only be used after a drastic change in schedule, like a trip or a change in shift at work, and only for two weeks, maximum. It's a hormone and should be treated as a serious medication. Tart cherry juice contains melatonin naturally, but in a small enough amount it's safe to take everyday, try drinking a glass before bed.
9. Take it all off.
Sleeping naked is a great way to get better sleep and your partner certainly won't complain. Shedding all your clothing before bed helps you keep a more steady, cool body temperature and allows all of the body to breathe, literally. And, if it happens to inspire some extracurricular activities before bed, that's great -- sex can help you relax and burn some calories before bed while keeping intimacy in your relationship, which could otherwise be a source of stress and sleepless nights.
10. Perfect your breath.
Some natural ways to improve breathing include aromatherapy, with scents like eucalyptus, Himalayan sea salt inhalers, which reduce inflammation and help clear congestion and adhesive strips to open the airways. Choosing the correct pillow can also make a big difference. Make sure your head is propped up, and not laying flat. This will help prevent snoring and make breathing more easy. Taking a hot shower or bath before bed also helps open the airways and doing the stretches mentioned earlier will help you focus on it more.
A good night's sleep doesn't have to elude you. Try some of these tips and pay attention to your sleep. If you're still experiencing problems, it may be time to consult your doctor.
Get everything you need to sleep through the night at eVitamins. Have a great weekend!
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