Sleep issues can be devastating to overall health and well-being, as anyone who's suffered a night of tossing and turning knows. While it's frustrating to live with insomnia and other sleeping difficulties, there is hope! Here are 12 tips to help you get peaceful, blissful sleep:
1. Turn off the blue light one hour before bedtime.
Blue light is the most disturbing light when trying to go to sleep because it immediately shuts down your production of melatonin, the major sleep hormone that we produce at night. Sources of blue light include computers, iPads, cellphones, video games, and television.
2. Avoid caffeine after noon.
Many of us fail to realize how much caffeine can impair our ability to get to sleep and remain asleep. Most of us take four to six hours to metabolize caffeine. However, many of us may take much longer. Caffeine blocks the ability of a sleep-promoting chemical called adenosine to work. So think twice about that evening trip to a coffee shop or that dark piece of chocolate you crave.
3. Check that thermostat.
Most studies demonstrate that room temperatures of between 62 and 70 degrees seem to work best for sleeping. The reason is that our core body temperature drops at night. In fact, this drop is a signal to the brain to sleep. A warm room can inhibit this process.
4. Avoid cured meats and aged cheeses such as Parmesan close to bedtime.
Aged cheeses and cured meats contain an amino acid called tyramine. This amino acid, when ingested, increases the release of a hormone called norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is a wake-promoting hormone that is part of the fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system — certainly not something you want occurring when you're trying to fall asleep.
5. Eat sleep-promoting foods.
Snacks that are high in tryptophan such as dairy products, cheese, nuts, seeds, and grains, when combined with complex carbohydrates such as whole-wheat toast or crackers, can encourage the onset of sleep. The release of insulin associated with the carbohydrates promotes the movement of tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan is then converted to serotonin and melatonin, which are sleep-promoting neurotransmitters.
6. Park your worries in another room.
Don’t take your worries or your work into the bedroom. In my book, Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, I describe a technique called constructive worrying. At least three hours before bed, write down your concerns and your solutions. Then put them in a desk drawer and leave them there for the night.
7. Make sure your alarm clocks are heard, but not seen.
The alarm clock should be in your bedroom to wake you up in the morning. Anxious glancing followed by calculating and then ruminating about “when will I get to sleep” or “how many hours of sleep do I have left” is a major cause of insomnia. If you're having trouble getting to sleep, put that clock where it can be heard but out of sight.
8. Exercise regularly.
Study after study has shown that those who exercise regularly go to sleep easier and sleep more soundly than their sedentary friends. In fact, a very recent study has dispelled the myth about exercising too close to bedtime. In this study, even those who exercised close to bedtime slept better than those who did not.
9. Avoid excessive alcohol close to bedtime.
Unfortunately, many alcoholics started out drinking to help them fall sleep. Although initially alcohol may induce sleep, as it leaves the body, it causes an increase in body temperature and triggers the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). As a result, it hinders your ability to stay asleep, and as time passes, you require more and more each night to fall asleep — not a good formula for health or sleep.
10. Quiet please.
If you're having trouble falling or staying asleep, it could be the noise. The noise might be coming from your snoring spouse or that loud music that your recently returned 28-year-old is playing. In any case, most of us need quiet to sleep. The remedy can be as simple as a good pair of custom earplugs or getting your spouse to see someone about that snoring … or in some cases, considering a bedroom divorce.
11. Check that mattress.
An old mattress can be an unrecognized source of poor sleep. Most mattresses should be changed after seven years. With the new memory foam and air number mattresses, you can customize the degree of firmness to your comfort level.
12. Relax those muscles.
In the book, I describe a technique called progressive muscle relaxation. It's a sequential tensing and relaxation of various muscle groups accompanied by rhythmic breathing. It is simple to learn and very effective. It accomplishes two things: One, by relaxing muscles, tension is relieved, which in turn relaxes the mind. Two, the very activity takes your mind off everything else and serves as a form of meditation.
These are just some of the things you can do to help your sleep. The crucial point is to realize how important sleep is to good mental and physical health. So please make sleep a priority.