Do you toss and turn at night, looking for a better night’s sleep? You’re not alone. It is common wisdom that adults need seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Yet, the Sleep Foundation (an American non-profit, charitable organization) reports that more than a third of us average less than that and according to Psychology Today 40% of Americans say they struggle to fall asleep at least a few times a month.
“You have so much to gain from getting good sleep – from your mental sharpness and emotional wellness to heart health and overall energy,” advises chihealth.com. “It can even help you maintain a healthy weight.”
While there can be many factors that keep us awake, here are some tips from sleep experts to ease you in to dreamland.
Stick to a Sleep Schedule
“Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Being consistent reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle”, the Mayo Clinic suggests. “If you don't fall asleep within about 20 minutes of going to bed, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read or listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you're tired. Repeat as needed, but continue to maintain your sleep schedule and wake-up time.”
Institute a 10-3-2-1-0 Rule for Sleep
Losika Sivaganeshan, MD, a primary care provider with CHI Health, recommends this timetable for healthy slumber:
- “10 hours before bedtime – Stop drinking caffeine.
- 3 hours before bedtime – Stop eating and drinking, including alcohol.
- 2 hours before bedtime – Stop working, including reading emails.
- 1 hour before bedtime – Stop looking at all screens, including TVs, computers and phones.
- 0 – number of times you’ll hit snooze in the morning.”
One of the most common barriers to falling asleep, according to Psychology Today, is worry. One solution, they say is to write in a journal before your bedtime. “To manage worries, [write] them down at bedtime: Left to swirl in your mind, worries gain speed and continue indefinitely. Writing them down makes them concrete and finite. Once you have written them down, pick up a book—preferably fiction—and read until you can't stay awake.”
A recent study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that you should “[w]rite in a journal for five minutes before bed. But critically, what helps most is not writing about what you accomplished during the day, but writing out your to-do list for tomorrow.” Baylor University and Emory University studies found that writing to-do lists helped people fall asleep an average of nine minutes faster.
Get the Bedding That Best Suits You and the Way You Sleep
Every sleeper is different and every sleeper has different needs for their mattress, pillows, sheets and blankets. To help you make an informed choice, the Sleep Foundation has developed “an objective rating system that helps you understand each product – the good and the bad – so that you can make the best purchase decision.” You can access the foundation’s reviews of more than 3,000 sleep products online at sleepfoundation.org.
Eat—But Not Too Much
Harvard Medical School points out that “a grumbling stomach can be distracting enough to keep you awake, but so can an overly full belly. Avoid eating a big meal within two to three hours of bedtime. If you're hungry right before bed, eat a small healthy snack (such as an apple with a slice of cheese or a few whole-wheat crackers) to satisfy you until breakfast.”
And, You Knew This Was Coming: Exercise
“Going for a brisk daily walk won't just trim you down, it will also keep you up less often at night,” Harvard Medical School advises. “Exercise boosts the effect of natural sleep hormones such as melatonin. A study in the journal Sleep found that postmenopausal women who exercised for about three-and-a-half hours a week had an easier time falling asleep than women who exercised less often. Just watch the timing of your workouts. Exercising too close to bedtime can be stimulating. Morning workouts that expose you to bright daylight will help the natural circadian rhythm.”
The final word on sleep before we turn out the light comes from Matthew Walker, Ph.D., the sleepfoundation.org’s scientific advisor: “Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset the health of your brain and body.”