4 Simple Ways to Get More—and Better—Sleep This Year, According to Experts
These tips can help make this the year you get your best sleep ever.
"To sleep, perchance to dream…" So goes the famous quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet, but for many of us who deal with disorders such as insomnia, the sentiment may feel more like "Perchance to sleep…"
According to the Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 18 and 64 need seven to nine hours of sleep per night, while adults 65 and over need seven to eight hours. And yet "35.2 percent of all adults in the US report sleeping on average for less than seven hours per night," says the site.
Whether it's because of teeth-grinding (bruxism), sleepwalking, nightmares, or just straight-up insomnia, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute warns that not getting enough sleep "is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression. Sleep deficiency is also linked to a higher chance of injury in adults, teens, and children."
Fortunately, Chris Winter, MD, Neurologist and Mattress Firm's sleep health expert, has some tips on how to sleep better than ever this year. Read on to find out what they are.
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Carb up at bedtime.
We all know it's not a good idea to eat before bedtime, because it can cause indigestion and reflux, but let's face it: some of us do it anyway.
If you give in to the urge for a nighttime snack, Winter suggests "a carb-heavy snack that's high on the glycemic index, like a small bowl of (low-sugar, whole-grain) cereal, a banana, or some dried cherries." These foods "create insulin spikes and positive changes for our tryptophan levels," Winter says, explaining that "Tryptophan, an amino acid, is essential for making serotonin, a sleep-promoting chemical in our brain."
Winter does advise that your nighttime snack take place about two hours before you actually go to bed, to "avoid any indigestion or reflux you may feel if you go to bed too soon after eating."
Make your bedroom into a "sleep cave."
You've heard of a man cave, but do you know about turning your bedtime space into a dark, cozy, relaxing sleep cave? Your bedroom needs to be "a place that invites rest and regeneration," advises Winter. "Make sure your bedroom is quiet, cool, comfortable and not cluttered." And most of all, dark.
"Melatonin, our sleep hormone, can only make you sleepy if your eyes aren't seeing any light, but our bedrooms often have many sources of light, like the alarm clock, phone, TV," Winter explains, suggesting you turn off all of your lights, close the blinds, and use a contoured eye mask if necessary. "Complete darkness is crucial to good sleep," he says.
Get warm and cozy.
To take full advantage of your "sleep cave," Winter recommends warming up with a shower or bath an hour before bed. "Heating your body has been shown to improve sleep," he explains. "When our body temperature falls, we feel drowsy due to a natural decrease in metabolic activity."
Winter advises that a heating pad can do the trick, as well. "I love the beanbag sacks that you can heat in the microwave and wear around your neck," he says. "Take it a step further and get one that's stuffed with lavender, which has been shown to help promote sleep as well."
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Stay on the move.
Exercising in the morning has been shown to have lots of positive health benefits. It's also a step you can take early in the day towards getting a good night of sleep.
"A great bedtime routine starts in the morning, with about 15 to 20 minutes of exercise," Winter says, noting that you can keep the activity simple. "Working out in the morning light suppresses melatonin and produces a surge of serotonin that enhances wakefulness and mood." (And while you're at it, make your bed in the morning, too—this simple habit has been shown to help people sleep better at night.)
In the evening, engaging in restful exercises such as yoga or meditation about one hour before bedtime can also be helpful, says Winter. "These activities prime our brains for relaxation and sleep."