Sleep Hygiene: 9 Steps to a Better Night's Sleep
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1. ENJOY A PRE-SLEEP COOLDOWN
Avoid stimulants and heavy or spicy foods for two to three hours before bedtime. Examples of items to avoid include: caffeine, tea, coffee, energy drinks, nicotine, alcohol, spicy foods, and (sadly) chocolate!
2. REDUCE DISTRACTIONS
In today's world we're surrounded by distractions all day every day. When sleep time is approaching try to reduce distractions as much as possible. Bright lights and screens like those found on computers, TVs, phones, iPods, and other devices signal your brain that it should be awake. So turn them off 30 minutes or even an hour before bedtime to prepare your brain for sleep.
3. CAT NAPS MAKE YOU DOG TIRED
It may be hard to believe but those quick cat naps during the day can actually make it harder to fall asleep at night. Try to avoid napping during the day and instead get a good long sleep at night.
4. TIMING IS EVERYTHING - KEEP A SCHEDULE
As much as possible try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Creating a sleep schedule helps train your body so that it knows when to fall asleep and when to wake up. If you can maintain the same schedule for several weeks (including weekends) you should begin to find yourself falling asleep faster and waking up in the morning more refreshed.
5. IF YOU HAVE A SNACK (BUT MAKE IT A GOOD ONE!)
A snack before bed is a treat that many of us enjoy but too much food or the wrong foods can make it difficult to sleep. If you like a snack before bedtime choose small portions and find foods rich in melatonin -- a natural sleep hormone. Great melatonin rich food options include oatmeal, walnuts, cherries and bananas. A small glass of warm milk or herbal tea (without caffeine) can be great for sleep as well.
6. KEEP IT IN THE BEDROOM
Keep bedroom activities -- sleep, cuddling and sex -- in the bedroom. Keep everything else -- watching TV, reading books, talking on the phone, eating, etc -- out. Doing "awake" things in the bedroom can confuse your body and make it difficult to fall asleep. When it's time for bed give yourself 15-20 minutes (with no distractions) to clear your mind and fall asleep. If you find you can't fall asleep then get out of the bedroom and find a quiet activity (like reading a book or magazine) to do until you feel drowsy. Remember you're trying to fall asleep so don't choose anything too stimulating... Don't read a thriller!
7. HERE COMES THE SUN
Make sure you spend some time each day outside enjoying the sun. Our bodies have a natural internal clock that helps us know when to wake up and when to sleep. Regular exposure to sunlight helps to maintain our natural rhythms and patterns to enjoy a healthy life.
8. GET COMFORTABLE
Your bedroom needs to be a sleep haven; a comfortable environment -- free of distractions, noise and light -- where you can relax and fall asleep. Don't bring work materials into the bedroom and make sure ot invest in a quality mattress so that when you do fall asleep you'll feel good all night.
9. TURN OUT THE LIGHTS
It may seem obvious but be sure to make your bedroom dark at night. The contrast between sun and light during the day and darkness at night helps to reinforce your body's natural rythms. By making your bedroom dark at night your body will be able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.