If you seldom enjoy 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night, you are certainly not alone – around 40 percent of Americans routinely don’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can affect work and relationships, and can lead to high blood pressure, inflammation and weight gain; even heart disease and diabetes. If you find you are still tired when the alarm goes off in the morning, the following tips can help you to improve the quality of your sleep, and help you to sleep longer.
The first step is to analyze why you aren’t getting enough sleep, and the solution may be as simple as changing your routine. Perhaps your room is too light, your sleeping environment too noisy, or you are simply going to bed too late or getting up too early. Taking your work to bed with you is never conducive to relaxing and getting a good night’s sleep, and even the color of your bedroom can make a difference. Blue is considered to be the most relaxing color and can even lower blood pressure, while lighter shades of yellow and green are also helpful in improving sleep. Avoid painting your bedroom brown, and bright colors such as red, purple and gold should also be avoided. A room that is as dark as possible is also more conducive to sleep, and of course you want the temperature just right – not too cold or hot.
Going to bed and getting up at the same time is also an effective way to improve sleep, although of course it can be tempting to sleep in at the weekend. Incorporating other things into your pre-sleep routine can also help to relax you and ensure you get a good night’s rest. Some suggestions include a hot bath, a cup of herbal tea, or simply reading a few pages of a good book each night before closing your eyes. The more that you can stick to some sort of routine, the better chance you have of sleeping soundly and waking refreshed. Of course, a comfortable mattress and pillow also help, as well as a bed that is large enough for the two of you if you share a bed. Turning your mattress over every few months also helps.
Caffeine may be just what you need in the morning, but this stimulant is not the best thing to take just before you go to bed. Soda, tea and chocolate all contain caffeine, and if possible should not be consumed within a few hours of going to bed. Don’t drink or smoke too close to bedtime, as this too can help to keep you awake, and avoid those late night snacks, especially foods that are rich or spicy. Not enough thiamine in the diet can also prevent restful sleep, and thiamine rich foods, such as bacon and pork can help to improve your chances of falling asleep. Certain minerals, such as zinc and magnesium can lead to better sleep, and are found in meat, shellfish, nuts and spinach. Melatonin is a naturally occurring substance, and taking a melatonin supplement about 30 minutes before bedtime is safe, effective and non habit forming.
A good night’s sleep is something we all need, and taking some of the above steps can make a huge difference to your mental and physical health. Keep in mind that shift work or regular jet lag can play havoc with your sleeping. However, you also need to know when it’s time to see the doctor, and continually not getting enough sleep or waking in the night could be symptomatic of a more serious condition.