9 Ways to Improve Your Sleep Habits

Losing sleep can have adverse health effects, so it’s important to create a restful bedtime routine.

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- Posted on Jun 29, 2020

A woman sleeping.

This article is provided in collaboration with Arnicare

It’s no secret that stressful times can make sleep an elusive dream. When your head hits the pillow, you know you’re in for a rough go if your mind starts to spin with worries and regrets. Since stressors have been abundant lately, you may be finding it more challenging than ever to get in a solid block of shut-eye. Financial concerns and workplace and childcare disruptions may be among the sleep robbers you’ve been facing. But because losing sleep can have serious health impacts, it’s crucial to develop good habits to get the rest you vitally need.

Sleep allows you to restore yourself at a deep level. It holds sway over many components of your health and well-being, from mood and memory to weight and even immunity. On a nightly basis, your body needs from seven to eight hours of sleep. During that time, it works to repair organs, muscles, and other cells. Key proteins called cytokines are released to combat inflammation, disease, and infection. When you don’t get enough sleep, there’s less time for repair and for cytokines to circulate and do their work. Research suggests that poor sleep increases your chances of catching a cold and other infections. You’ll also miss out on other important health benefits like healthier skin and lower cortisol levels.

It's a given that dental and personal hygiene play vital roles in health maintenance. But how much do you know about sleep hygiene? The term refers to behaviors and environmental elements that promote better sleep health. As with dental or personal hygiene, it’s crucial to practice good sleep habits each day. As time goes on, your body will adapt to a routine, and, voilá, your sleep may start to come easily and naturally.

Whether you’ve recently developed sleep issues or you were already battling them, the following tips can show you how to establish a routine that helps refresh and restore you every single day:
 
1. The goal is to get the recommended seven to eight hours of rest you need every night. But if you have trouble doing so because of work interruptions, stresses or any other reason, a 30-minute nap can allow you to catch up.

2. Go to bed and set the alarm so that you can wake up at the same time each day. Even though it can be tough to get started, keep in mind that a regular sleep schedule will improve the quality and amount of your sleep.

3. Stay away from alcohol, soda, caffeine, and nicotine before bed. These substances have stimulating effects that can prevent sleep or disrupt it.

4. Create a pre-sleep routine that prompts your body and mind to unwind. Listen to soothing music or read a book that puts you in a positive frame of mind. Calming activities of this sort can promote relaxation and prime your body for a good night’s rest.

5. Prepare your room for rest by eliminating distractions and light. Disconnect from any digital distractions such as a television, cell phone, laptop, or tablet device. Getting rid of bright light in your sleep space can help balance your circadian rhythm.

6. Stretch your muscles. Vigorous physical activity and exercises are not recommended immediately before bed because they’re too stimulating. But gentle stretches can help release stored-up tension and relax your mind and body.

7. Decompress with an evening bath or shower. Research has shown that a warm bath one or two hours before bed can improve the quality of sleep, as well as reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Our bodies naturally drop in temperature to initiate sleep, and bathing can help hasten the signal to our brains that it’s time for bed as we cool down afterward.

8. Keep your room cool. As noted above, body temperature plays a critical role in sleep quality, but so does ambient temperature. The National Sleep Foundation recommends setting your bedroom thermostat between 60 and 70 degrees for adults and between 65 and 70 degrees for babies and toddlers. But having cold feet can actually disrupt sleep, so make sure to put on socks or use an extra blanket or a hot water bottle if you’re chilly.

9. Indulge in a snack. Late-night eaters rejoice! According to some nutritionists, having a small, light snack can keep nighttime hunger pangs at bay. Choose low-fat and nutrient-dense foods like nuts and seeds, whole-grain crackers, or warm milk. Or try bananas. They’re loaded with the minerals magnesium and potassium, which help relax muscles and can ward off bothersome leg cramps.

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