Healthy sleep habits can make a big difference in your quality of life. Having healthy sleep habits is often referred to as having good sleep hygiene. Try to keep the following sleep practices on a consistent basis:
Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body's clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can't fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner's sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise" machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up during the night.
Use light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.
Consider a natural sleep aid. There are several that are safe, non-habit forming and won’t leave you feeling hungover, such as:
- Sleep Relax– this time-tested herbal combination is composed of four safe, gentle effective botanicals medicines that were used long before the advent of sleeping pills. The combination of Valerian, Passion Flower, Skullcap and Hops is a classic remedy for restlessness, anxiety and sleeplessness due to mental stress.
- 100% Natural GABA– this is a good choice if you have trouble falling asleep, feel like you are tossing and turning all night or waking every few hours. This natural amino acid just happens to be the brain’s main inhibitory (i.e. calming) neurotransmitter. Supplemental PharmaGABA™ has been shown to improve sleep quality. In elderly subjects, it also helped decreased awakenings associated with the need for nighttime urination.
- Melatonin – the levels of this sleep hormone naturally decline over time, which is one factor why we tend to sleep less as we age.
- The Tranquil Sleep formula combines melatonin with L-theanine and 5-HTP. L-theanine is an amino acid from green tea that promotes a zen-like state of mental calmness so you can rest easy. 5-HTP helps encourage our own melatonin production. This combo allows most people to unwind at bedtime, enjoyed a balanced amount of deep and light sleep, then wake refreshed in the morning.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor, naturopath, or to find a sleep professional. You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a Sleep Diary to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.
This content was excerpted from articles created by Natural Factors www.naturalfactors.com and the National Sleep Foundation www.sleepfoundation.org