It is probably a sign of the times we live in. Twenty-seven percent of Americans—that’s about 164 million people--struggle with sleep at least once a week according to a recent Consumer Reports survey. “Americans spent an estimated $41 billion on sleep aids and remedies in 2015, and that’s expected to grow to $52 billion by 2020,” according to the magazine. “The rub is that certain solutions don’t work as well as claimed—if they work at all.” However, here are ten common sense and easy-to-apply tips that have been proven to help you fall asleep faster and get longer, more restful sleep.
Tip #1: Power Down. Sleep studies have shown that the blue light emitted by video screens interferes with healthy sleep patterns. The solution is simple, turn off computers, smartphones, and television sets at least one hour before bedtime. (And the glow from the digital clock beside your bed may also be a culprit. If you can’t shut it off, cover it.)
Tip #2: Avoid a “Snack Attack”. Spicy foods, fatty foods, alcohol, and cheese are all known to induce insomnia. For a restful slumber, bananas, honey, almonds, and oats are better snack options.
Tip #3: Watch out for hidden caffeine. We all know that you will get a big jolt of sleep-impairing caffeine in a cup of coffee, a shot of espresso, or an energy drink, but caffeine can hide in other beverages and foods too. If you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine be wary of non-cola sodas, chocolate, pain relievers, and even some kinds of ice cream.
Tip #4: Save your bed for sleeping and that “other thing”. Don’t watch TV, surf the net or— even worse—work while in bed. Your bed should be a relaxing place. A cooler bedroom can help you fall asleep. Most people find the best bedroom temperature for restful sleep is between 68 and 72 degrees.
Tip #5: Ease the pain. Even mild pain can be a barrier to getting the rest you need. If you have back pain try putting a small pillow between your legs to better align your hips. If you sleep on your back slip the pillow between your knees.
Tip #6: Get a “Goldilocks” pillow. If a stiff neck is troubling you, check your pillow. It should be neither too fat nor too thin. It should support the natural curve of your neck.
Tip #7: Develop a set routine. Going to bed and getting up at regular, consistent times sends clear signals to your body when it should be asleep and when it should be wide awake. Once you get up turn up the lights so your body knows it’s time to get active.
Tip #8: Pace your workout. It just makes sense, doesn’t it, that working out will tire you out? People who exercise regularly fall asleep faster and are much more likely to stay asleep for six to eight hours. But don’t do exercise too close to bedtime. Plan your exercise regimen so that you are done three to four hours before you turn in so a post-exercise energy surge doesn't cause you to toss and turn.
Tip #9: Skip the Nap. Snoozing during the day may get in the way of snoozing at night. If you must nap, make it a “power” nap of 20 minutes or less. If you feel groggy or tired, instead of napping try a short walk or a cold drink to revive your system.
Tip #10: Just say ‘No’ to tobacco. Chalk this up as another reason to quit smoking, chewing or dipping tobacco. The nicotine in tobacco is a stimulant just like caffeine which will interfere with you falling asleep and staying asleep.
Good sleep is incredibly important to your physical and mental health. So, good night and sleep tight. (You’ll have to tuck yourself in.)