26.6 years. If you’re lucky enough to live to age 80, and you get the recommended amount of sleep (about eight hours or so per night), that’s how much of your life you’ll be in sweet slumber. There’s a reason that we’ve adapted to spend a full one-third of our lives in the land of nod: That’s where many incredibly important protective and restorative processes take place. Improve the quality of your sleep, experts say, and your overall health and well-being is very likely to improve. How exactly does one do that? Funny you should ask: Here are 10 tips to get you started. They’re too important to ignore: Getting good sleep is one of the 100 Ways to Live to 100!
Get up and get out
Getting a good night’s rest is all about syncing your circadian cycle to your lifestyle and schedule. For that to happen, your body needs exposure to light during the day. You can kickstart that process by heading outside for a walk or a run within 30 minutes of waking up. If you aren’t a morning person, that can seem like a tall order, but it’s well worth your while. See, because most of us spend our waking hours indoors, our exposure to natural light is minimal. Heading outside before your nine-to-five can help set you up for bedtime success. And exercising is just one of the 10 Drug-Free Ways to Fight Depression!
…particularly if it’s sunny out
Spending time in the sun can also increase your levels of vitamin D, which more than 40 percent of Americans don’t get enough of. According to scientists, a deficiency of the vitamin could cause insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness. Why not just pop a pill? Although the association between vitamins and sleep is still unclear, preliminary research reveals that those who take supplements tend to sleep less soundly than those who don’t. For more on supplements, read up on these 10 Supplements You Should Be Taking.
Call time at the coffee pot
If you need a coffee jolt to get you through the afternoon, 2 p.m. is the latest you should quaff any joe. Why? Research has found that caffeine can negatively impact sleep — even when it’s consumed within six hours of bedtime. So enjoy that afternoon cup, then cut yourself off. Yes, this caffeine ban includes teas, sodas and decaf (it still contains some of the stimulant). If you find yourself lagging in the afternoon, try The Best Way to Get an Energy Boost Without Coffee!
Work it on out
A 2013 survey by the National Sleep Foundation revealed that regular, vigorous exercisers reported the best slumber. A study published in the journal BioMed Research International had similar findings. The research revealed that moderate aerobic exercise can help insomniacs sleep more soundly and fall asleep more quickly. For more on sleeping, check out the 30 Weirdest Things You Do in Your Sleep.
Eat right to sleep tight
What do turkey, peanut butter and bananas all have in common? They’re all good sources of tryptophan, an amino acid with powerful sleep-inducing effects. But that’s not all: Tryptophan converts to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can help boost feelings of calm and relaxation. To reap the benefits, enjoy some roasted turkey, a complex carbohydrate and a vegetable for your main meal, and smear a tablespoon of peanut butter on half a banana as a healthy dessert. The tryptophan will help you nod off, while the combination of complex carbs and protein will banish any midnight snack attacks that may wake you mid-slumber. Stock your kitchen with these 20 Amazing Healing Foods!
Get dark and cool
Exposure to light at night doesn’t just interrupt your chances of a great night’s sleep; it may also result in weight gain, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Study subjects who slept in the darkest rooms were 21 percent less likely to be obese than those sleeping in the lightest rooms. Meanwhile, not only do most people sleep better in a cooler temperature, but our bodies respond more positively by activating more brown fat—the good fat that burns through the nasty, stubborn belly fat that wraps around your internal organs. A study published in the journal Diabetes found that people who switched to 66-degree sleeping temperatures doubled their volumes of good fat. And during the day, fill your plate with these 25 Fat-Burning Foods to Keep You Young Forever!
Look at your devices differently
Bad news, Netflix fans: your late-night habit might make it more difficult to get a good night’s rest. According to recent research by the National Academy of Sciences, the blue light emitted from electronic devices like your computer, iPad or LED television can impair the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, which negatively affects sleep quality. If you can’t kick your late-night tech habit altogether, download a free program called F.lux. Throughout the day, the software gradually changes light emissions from your electronic devices from blue to a warm red, a hue that minimizes blue light’s stimulating effects. Unfortunately, it can’t do the same for your television, so you’ll just have to flip that off.
Count more sheep by counting fewer cats and dogs
Although you may love dozing off with your four-legged friend, animals can be a bit restless. A study by the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center found that 53 percent of people who sleep with their pets have disturbed rest and abnormal sleep patterns. So before putting yourself to bed, send your critters to the doghouse, and head back to the bedroom solo.
Just say no [To sleeping pills]
Though sleep aids might help you succumb to sleep, getting good-quality sleep — deep, REM sleep — is actually more difficult with medicines. But it gets worse. Larry Altshuler, M.D., author of Doctor, Say What?, shared a startling fact with us: A February 2012 study published in the journal BMJ Open revealed that people who take sleeping pills are four times more likely to die — yes, die — than those who don’t take them. “The pills also raise the risk for certain cancers, including esopha geal, lymphoma, lung, colon, and prostate,” he says. “The higher the doses and number of nights they are used, the higher the risk.” As for side effects that are still notable but less terrifying: If you wake during the night, sleep medications can affect your balance, judgment, and even your appetite. So ditch the pills — and while you’re on a health kick, try these 10 Home Health Tests That Can Save Your Life.
Institute a bedtime and a wakeup time
It may take some getting used to, but following a consistent sleep schedule reinforces the body’s sleep-wake cycle, promoting better shuteye. Similarly, setting your alarm clock to go off at the same time each day helps you sleep better too. According to Kansas State University psychologists, occasionally sleeping in — even just once a week — can reset your body’s internal clock to a different sleep cycle, making it more difficult to nod off after you’ve crawled into bed.
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