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7 Hidden Ways to Get Better Sleep

Go From Restless to Well-Rested in No Time

As a college student, I had my fair share of sleepless nights. But as I matured (and learned from the adverse affects I suffered because of those late nights), I began to realize that at the core of a healthy, long life is good sleep. Surprisingly, what we hear about health usually revolves around exercise and nutrition; the truth about sleep—one of the most important factors to attaining vitality—is often left out of the mix.

Losing sleep is certainly not something to be taken lightly. An occasional night of tossing and turning is normal, but continued patterns of this behavior can cause real problems in your ability to function normally. Research shows that inadequate sleep can have disastrous effects on your weight loss efforts, impair your concentration, and even mimic the symptoms of impaired glucose tolerance (which can lead to diabetes and hypertension).

Your mood also suffers when you don’t get enough shut-eye, causing you to become disoriented on the job, fatigued behind the wheel of a car, or irritated at home. But more importantly, these mood swings can affect your relationships with others, and even lead to depression.

But the good news is that, starting tonight, you can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. Here are 7 ways to get back on track. You’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time!

1. Create the right environment. Get your body and mind in the habit of using your bedroom for sleeping. If you frequently sit in bed to pay your bills, do your homework, watch television, eat, talk on the phone, etc., your mind will expect that the bedroom is for daytime activities. Instead, create an environment that is suitable for sleeping. Equip your room with soft lighting, comfortable bedding, and relaxing music. Other tricks include turning the temperature down a few notches, and turning the clock away from your view. Recent studies reveal that watching your sleep time vanish into the morning hours only makes you more anxious and less able to fall asleep.

2. Get yourself into a routine. This is especially hard for people with wavering, active schedules, like students and parents. On busy days, it is difficult—but crucial—to be firm with a routine. If you normally don't fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning, or if you don't have a sleep schedule at all, try going to bed a half an hour earlier each week, or set a time to get in bed and stick with it. Eventually your body will get used to going to sleep at that time and it will begin to come naturally.

3. Limit food and beverage intake before bed. As you lie down to sleep, acids in the stomach level out, making heartburn and indigestion more likely to occur. Also, your metabolism increases slightly to digest food, which can also raise your energy level. Stop eating at least three hours before your scheduled bedtime. If you must snack on something, keep it small, and avoid high-fat foods, which take longer to digest. Instead, have a granola bar, some toast, or a small bowl of cereal, but keep your portion small. Say no to stimulants like caffeine and nicotine, which can raise blood pressure and energy levels. Alcohol may be a depressant, but after its sedative effects wear off, your sleep patterns will suffer.

4. Consider a natural approach. Certain herbal teas can help you relax and fall asleep. Chamomile is a popular herb that slows the nervous system and promotes relaxation, for example. As always, consult your health care provider, use herbs and other supplements only as directed, and make sure to read labels. Some herbs may react with certain types of medication or cause adverse effects in individuals with liver disease, Parkinson's disease, and pregnant or nursing women. Other liquids, such as a small glass of warm milk, may also help.

5. Know when and how to nap. When energy levels drop around 3-5 p.m., most of us desire a little shut-eye. Napping is okay, as long as you do it wisely. Most sleep counselors recommend napping for no longer than 20 minutes. Exceeding 20 minutes could leave you feeling groggier and make it harder for you to fall asleep at bedtime. If you know you have to stay up late, or if you have an erratic sleep schedule (especially new moms), take a nap during the day. You’ll be more productive and in a better mood.

6. Take control of your worries. Let’s face it—most of us lead very stressful lives. Stress, surprises, and changes can take a toll on your sleep habits. Schedule some downtime each day for meditative activities like stretching or a hot bath. Try to decrease your brain activity before bed by writing down your thoughts in a journal and closing the book on the day. If thinking keeps you up at night, get out of bed and try to be productive. Deal with those thoughts (pay the bill that you are worried about forgetting, make a to-do list, etc.) in a positive way, and come back to bed when you’re ready to sleep.

7. Get a check-up. If you toss and turn most nights, it may be time to see a physician. You could be suffering from one or more sleep disorders, including insomnia and sleep apnea. The sooner you find out what's wrong, the sooner you can fix it. Sleep disorders are dangerous to your health, so if you suspect something is wrong, tend to it immediately.

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Member Comments

  • My jocturnal waking lead to nocturnal eating so I work hard to get good rest.
  • I aim for a full 8 hours sleep, but sometimes I just wake up after 7 hours and no matter what I try, I can't get that other hour of sleep, and other times I can get that full 8 hours
  • I feel a difference if I don't get enough shuteye
  • I like nine hours of sleep but sometimes I can only get eight or seven and a half hours! My mother is ninety two years old and she likes nine hours of sleep too!
    Due to existing medical conditions, my only way to sleep 8 hours pain-free is to take some pretty heavy duty drugs. Those lead to pretty unsatisfactory mornings, much like a hangover. What seems to work better tho' it is not great is to go to bed when I'm tired. Get up when I find myself wide awake from turning the wrong way and then eventually going back to bed when sleep moves in again. Not the best but better than drugged sleep and later the side effects. And there are no drugs without side effects
  • HYKER13
    Been there, have done all this stuff, nothing works had a sleep study done many years ago, and you know what they told me? yeah you have few problems sleeping, that was it, waste of money. I get about 4.5 to 5.5 hours a night, I am in bed for 8 hours, taken sleep remedies, helps for an hour or so.
  • I have to have the room very dark...can't even see a power light from a device. I also do a type of meditation where I visualize flying over my house in the sky at night as I am getting sleepy. Then I float down through an atmosphere that feels like moving through soft, dark velvet toward a warm. dimly lit room with my bed waiting for me in it. Next, I sink down into the soft silky bedding and my eyes feel so heavy they can't stay open. I also feel my extremities become heavy as I sink farther into the bedding until I lose consciousness. My breathing slows and deepens and all extraneous sights and sounds disappear from my awareness.

    Anyone can work on these types of visualizations using things they find calming or relaxing.
  • Due to existing medical conditions my only way to sleep 8 hours pain free is to take some pretty heavy duty drugs. Those lead to pretty unsatisfactory mornings, much like a hangover. What seems to work better tho' it is not great is to go to bed when I'm tired. Get up when I find myself wide awake from turning the wrong way and then eventually going back to bed when sleep moves in again. Not the best but better than drugged sleep and later the side effects. And there are no drugs without side effects
    Keep a notepad on your night stand...sleepless
    ness often occurs due to the thoughts, plans, lists, and worries on our mind. Writing those things down, help us get past the concern of forgetting how we plan to deal with those things!
  • I recently began drinking tart cherry juice from a local health store. It has, or helps increase melatonin in the body, which helps me sleep. With the tart cherry juice I do not get the morning groggy feeling that I used to get when taking Melatonin tablets.
  • I need a quiet environment to sleep! I live in a cheap apartment and if I can hear the neighbor's TV or music, I don't get any sleep! LUCKY for me, I am losing my hearing and that is helping block noises. NOT so good for the rest of my life, but I can get more sleep.
  • I know it's not recommended but the TV is a sure thing to put me to sleep. I go to bed, read a little, turn out the light and if I can't get to sleep I turn on the TV until I do. I turn it off but usually don't remember doing it.
  • I am another who follows all the suggestions and still struggles. Some of my medications interfere with sleep patterns but I have to take them so my doctor doesn't have any solutions either. It's really hard!
  • I am one of the fortunate ones that rarely have problems with sleep, but if it happens to be one of those rare occasions, I find that warm milk with a couple dashes of turmeric, and a teaspoon of honey (but only a teaspoon!) literally works as a sleeping potion for me.

    Everyone is different and you have to find what works, but I do find if I do not exercise during the day, that may prevent me from falling to sleep quickly. I suspect that my body needs to release a certain amount of energy in the day, and if it doesn't, sleep is elusive.

    One last point--I notice someone disagreed with the short nap thing, and suggested 4 hour naps. I would NOT do this. Short naps prevent you from going through a whole sleep cycle but are long enough give your brain/body a brief rest and allow your to re-focus. If your naps are too long and you go through a whole sleep cycle, your are messing with your circadian rhythms and the whole not-being-able-to sleep situation will just be exacerbated. (Please note, if you are ill, then such sleep may be necessary, but that would be the rare exception.)
    I generally get a good night's sleep most nights, but if I do find myself tossing and turning (usually because of too much caffeine during the day), I get out of bed and read a home repair manual. After about 20 minutes, I'm usually ready to go to sleep!

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