Written by guest blogger/author, Gabriel Patel
Sleeping poorly? Waking up tired? Feeling groggy all day? You’re not alone. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over one-third of Americans fail to get enough sleep on a regular basis. Since sleep deprivation causes disruptions to various brain functions, people who don’t get enough sleep often face challenges with decision making, problem solving, lowered immunity, mood control, and memory. They also have a heightened risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity. Although prescription sleep aids can help, they come with many side effects and can be extremely addictive. So, instead of heading to the pharmacy, try out these natural sleep hygiene tips for healthy ways to improve your sleep.
1. Exercise Regularly
Did you know that you can track your fitness progress by analyzing your sleep? Physical activity—even in small amounts—can result in a huge improvement to your sleep quality. Exercise increases the amount of time your body spends in the deepest, most restorative level of sleep that is vital to healthy daytime functioning. Getting your body moving can also help you fall asleep more easily at night because it burns up excess energy in your body, preventing restlessness at the end of the day. Ideally, you should aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week. Getting outside in the natural sunlight for a morning jog can help reset your natural sleep-wake cycle, while working out in the afternoon can help your body relax more easily in the evening.
2. Make Your Bedroom More Comfortable
According to The Alaska Sleep Clinic, a comfortable sleep environment is paramount to a good night’s sleep. Your bedroom should be dark, cool, and quiet. If it’s not, consider putting up blackout curtains, purchasing a white noise machine, and turning your thermostat down in the evening. If your bed isn’t very comfortable, you may want to buy a new mattress and replace your bedding with something soft and breathable, like bamboo or organic cotton sheets. It’s also a good idea to remove clutter, workout equipment, and electronics from the bedroom and stick to calming décor.
3. Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night
Our bodies run on a natural sleep-wake cycle. When we follow a regular bedtime, our bodies have a much easier time falling asleep at night and waking up in the morning. So, try to go to bed at the same time each night and stop sleeping in on the weekends. Aside from improving your sleep quality, this will also help your body regulate other functions, including digestion.
4. Cut Back on Caffeine
If you’re sleep-deprived, you may be relying on caffeine to keep you going during the day. Unfortunately, consuming caffeine as early as noon can prevent you from falling asleep at night. Feeling restless in the evening or waking up frequently during the night may be indicators that caffeine is disrupting your sleep.
5. Fix Your Nighttime Habits
Most of us have bad bedtime habits that prevent us from falling or staying asleep. For example, watching TV in the evening encourages us to delay our bedtime—while the light from the screen prevents the production of sleep hormones in the body. This goes the same for your phone, which should be put away at least 30 minutes before you hit the sack. Practice a calming bedtime routine to help your body relax and free your mind from any stressors or nagging items on your to-do list. Some great before-bed activities include yoga, meditation, reading, or taking a warm bath. Finally, avoid snacking on fatty foods or those high in sugar, since these prevent sleep onset. If you look forward to your bedtime snack, reach for a banana, some almonds, or sugar-free oatmeal instead.
There’s nothing more frustrating than lying awake at night, unable to sleep as you watch the clock tick closer to your early-morning alarm. Although it’s normal to have difficulty sleeping once in a while, particularly during times of stress or upheaval, chronic sleeplessness can quickly get in the way of your physical health and mental functioning. Instead of turning to addictive sleeping pills, use these wellness and lifestyle tips to help you slumber more soundly.
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