So many of us suffer the ill effects of poor sleep, it’s surprising that we don’t have our own Awareness Day or magnet-ribbon for our cars. It’s to the point some mornings that I’m incredibly jealous of my friends who don’t have dark circles under their eyes, the ones who look bright eyed and bushy tailed. No fair! After some conversations with my family doctor, he gave me a list of things I can do to get to sleep faster, and stay asleep, none of which require a prescription. Here are a 10 ways to sleep better… thanks, Dr. Tom!
First and foremost, it’s a good idea to avoid stimulants, like caffeine, for at least a few hours before bedtime. Caffeine is in almost all coffees and teas (even decaf) and you can also find it in most caramel-colored sodas and in chocolate, so beware of what you eat and drink.
Try to remember that your bedroom is for sleeping, not for fighting with your sweetie or for punishing your kids. Knitting, reading, fine. Fighting or even having serious conversations in bed? Nope.
That’s right — your partner’s tossing and turning may not be the only thing keeping you awake. If you have pets, and they often sleep with you, they could be the culprits keeping you from sleeping. Kick them out of bed and see if you sleep better. I hate to say it, but this can also apply to co-sleeping children, especially those older than 5.
Studies have shown that most of us sleep better, deeper, when our bedrooms are cooler. I’m not really advocating using an air conditioner, or even a fan, but rather, if your allergies will allow it, open a window! Although, the white noise of a fan or air conditioner may help you sleep, too.
While we’re talking about allergies and temperatures, let me also recommend making sure you’re using the right bedding, a comforter and pillow that’s hypo-allergenic and not too hot or too cold. Experiment and see what you find most comfortable. The same goes for the firmness of your mattress.
People who exercise regularly tend to sleep better, too, though it’s a bad idea to exercise too close to bedtime. I’d recommend not exercising strenuously at least four hours before bed.
If you lay in bed, your head full of worry, going over and over situations or plans in your head, you might need to think of a better time, place, and way to address your stress. Try yoga. Try speaking with a counselor. Try keeping a notepad by your bed so you can write your thoughts down, then move on.
I can’t count how many of my friends and family fall asleep with the TV on, often blaring. Studies have also shown that it’s a lot harder to fall asleep after you’ve watched TV, so turn off the TV at least an hour before bedtime. Unless you’re one of my friends or family, because then the opposite is true.
Most pediatricians will recommend this for sleepless babies and toddlers, but it’s also a good idea for grown-ups with problems falling asleep. If you want to sleep better, try establishing a routine for your late evenings. Run a bath, take care of your skin, read a book, pet your cat, meditate, drink a chamomile infusion (not tea) — whatever you decide works best for you, make your routine and stick to it.
If none of these seems to help, there could indeed be a medical reason you’re not sleeping, or not sleeping well. Keep a list of all of the things you’ve tried, plus any particular sleep-related symptoms you’re having (restless legs, heartburn, difficulty breathing, etc.) and make an appointment with your doctor.
These are the tips my doctor, Dr. Tom, suggested to help me figure out why I wasn’t sleeping, and while I still can’t pin-point what causes my occasional sleeplessness, following these seems to help most of the time. How do you fall asleep and stay asleep? Do you have any other ways to sleep better? Please share!
Top Photo Credit: SyncHealth
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