How to Get a Better Sleep
Do you have a realistic idea of how much sleep you need? A general guideline for adults is 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Older adults need a similar amount, but the sleep may be lighter and may include a brief nap during the day. If you are consistently waking up groggy and exhausted, that’s a signal that you may need to up your sleep intake. If you’ve been sleep deprived, it may take a few days of heavier sleeping before you can get a sense of your average sleep needs.
What happens when you don’t get enough sleep
With a packed schedule, trying to squeeze as many hours of possible into the day is sorely tempting. However, when you continuously don’t get the amount of sleep you need, you begin to pay for it in many ways:
- Impaired mood, memory, and concentration. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re less productive, not more. Lack of sleep affects your ability to concentrate and remember things. What’s more, it makes you irritable and cranky. As a result, you’re social and decision-making skills suffer.
- Dampened immune system. Without adequate sleep, the immune system becomes weak, making you more vulnerable to colds, flu, and other infections and diseases. And if you get sick, it takes you longer to recover.
- Increased risk of accidents. Did you know that driving while seriously sleep deprived is similar to driving while drunk? The lack of motor coordination associated with sleep deprivation also makes you more susceptible to falls and injury.
- A rich, hearty dinner, topped off with a big slice of chocolate cake might seem like the perfect way to end the day, but it's wise to avoid eating a large meal within two hours of bed. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods as bedtime snacks.
- A light snack before bed can help promote sleep. When you pair tryptophan-containing foods with carbohydrates, it helps calms the brain and allows you to sleep better. For even better sleep, try adding extra calcium to your dinner or nighttime snack. Experiment with your food habits to determine your optimum evening meals and snacks. Sample bedtime snacks to help you sleep:
Good habits for good sleep:
1. Exercise most days, even if it's just to take a walk.
2. No caffeine after 7:00 p.m.
3. An hour before bedtime, avoid doing any kind of work that takes alert thinking. Addressing envelopes-okay. Analyzing an article-nope.
4. Adjust your bedroom temperature to be slightly chilly.
5. Keep your bedroom dark. Studies show that even the tiny light from a digital alarm clock can disrupt a sleep cycle. We have about six devices in our room that glow bright green; it's like sleeping in a mad scientist's lab. The Big Man's new pet, a Roomba (yes, he loves his robot vacuum), gives out so much light that I have to cover it with a pillow before bed.
6. Keep the bedroom as tidy as possible. It's not restful to fight through chaos into bed.
Eating right for sleep:
Glass of warm milk and half a turkey or peanut butter sandwich Whole-grain, low-sugar cereal or granola with low-fat milk or yogurt A banana and a cup of hot chamomile tea
If sleep won't come:
1. Breathe deeply and slowly until you can't stand it anymore.
2. If your mind is racing (you're planning a trip, a move, Christmas shopping; you're worried about a medical diagnosis), write down what's on your mind. This technique really works for most of us.
3. Slather yourself with body lotion. It feels good and also, if you're having trouble sleeping because you're hot, it cools you down.
4. If your feet are cold, put on socks.
5. Stretch your whole body.
6. Have a warm drink. Some people claim that warm milk contains melatonin and trytophan and so helps induce sleep, but in fact, a glass of milk doesn't contain enough to have any effect. But it's still a soothing drink. My nighttime favorite: 1/3 mug of milk, add boiling water, one packet of Equal, and a dash of vanilla. A real nursery treat.
8. Stretch your toes up and down several times.
9. Tell yourself, "I have to get up now." Imagine that you just hit the snooze alarm and in a minute, you're going to be marching through the morning routine. Often this is an exhausting enough prospect to make me fall asleep.