7 Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

January 30, 2013 8

7 Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

About 75% of Americans suffer from sleep disorders a few of times a week, according to Dr. James Maas, Ph.d. sleep expert and author of Power Sleep. This lack of rest does more than leave people groggy–it increases their risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart attack.

In addition, a 2011 study funded by the National Institutes of Health reveals that folks who get more rest are better at learning and retaining information, while similar research performed by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley suggests more sleep seems to diminish the emotional impact of painful memories.

Michael J. Breus, PhD, aka, The Sleep Doctor, told WebMD, “Whether you’re prepping for a test, starting a new job, coping with difficult circumstances, or just want to feel more agile of mind, the prescription is the same: get some sleep!”

Great. But how can we get from point A to point ZZZZs when counting sheep isn’t working?

Unless difficulty sleeping stems from medical concerns (which should be addressed by a professional), the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research suggests the following seven tips:

1. Scheduled Lights Out

The Mayo Clinic staff advises sticking to a schedule: Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. This will help train your body and promote better sleep. They warn, however, if you still haven’t fallen asleep after 15 minutes, get up, do something relaxing (reading, stretching), and go back to bed when you are tired.

2. Avoid Over-Eating/Under-Eating at Bedtime

According to Mayo Clinic experts, you should also avoid feeling either stuffed or starving when it comes time for bed. In addition, they warn against using nicotine or caffeine too close to lights out. “The stimulating effects…can take hours to wear off…and can wreak havoc with quality sleep.”

3. Rest-Full Routine

Mayo’s sleep-meisters also recommend, “Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down.” Similar to reading a child a bedtime story after brushing teeth and giving a kiss goodnight, adults need a ritual too. Think: warm shower or bath, reading a book or listening to music. The Mayo Clinic staff advise against using electronics as part of the ritual, however, since, “Some research suggests that screen time or other multi-media use before bedtime interferes with sleep.” Power down. Unplug. Chill out.

4. Create A Nighttime Retreat

Kirsch Honeycomb Snow Room Darkening Window ShadesSetting the stage for a good night’s sleep means creating an environment experts describe as, “cool, dark and quiet” — as well as comfortable. There are many clever ways to achieve conducive sleeping conditions — and if this is what’s between you and your beauty sleep, remedies abound.

Quick fixes include: room darkening shades, ear plugs, a sleep mask and even fans that cool the room, circulate air and create white noise.

Brookstone® Tranquil Moments® Advanced Sleep Sounds SystemDepending on your issues, the Brookstone Tranquil Moments Advanced Sleep Sound System might be worth considering as well. The device boasts “‘soothing sound programs based on Delta, Alpha or Theta brainwave frequencies” designed to coax your mind into entering a state of relaxation and deep sleep. In fact, they are so confident the device will work, it can also function as an alarm clock.

Obviously, pillow choice and the bed itself contribute mightily to whether or not you will get a good night’s sleep. The Mayo Clinic says, “Since the features of good bedding are subjective, choose what feels most comfortable to you.”

If your sleeping situation is less than perfect, you might consider a mattress pad and/or foam mattress topper to achieve the cloud-like softness or firmness you like best.

Sleep for Success!™ by Dr. James B. Maas Side Sleeper PillowPillow choice is incredibly personal, but Dr. Maas (who designs his own line of Sleep For Success! pillows) recommends, “The right support is medium firm and not too thick. It keeps your head and neck in a line, as if you were standing up.”

5. Just Say No to Numerous Naps!

While many tout the restorative effect of a power nap, the folks at the Mayo Clinic caution that, “Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep — especially if you’re struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality at night.” If you must, limit yourself to a brief 10- to 30-minute mid-afternoon rest.

6. Get Moving!

Exercise is a cure-all for many ailments — and that includes certain types of sleeplessness. Experts agree, “Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep.” Lace up those walking shoes and get moving!

7. Last, But Not Least: Taming the Stress Monster

Worse than the Boogeyman, stress can creep up at bedtime and result in an evening of tossing and turning. If you’re having trouble switching off your brain, it might be time to restore more peace into the waking hours. The Mayo Clinic suggests starting with the basics: “Such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one. Share a good laugh with an old friend. Before bed, jot down what’s on your mind and set it aside for tomorrow.”

Good night, and good luck.

By Bonnie McCarthy

How about you? Warm milk? Counting Chickens? Share your sleep secret in the comments area.

Comments (8)

  1. A white noise machine has helped my husband and I a lot. It seems to have quieted his snoring and helped me to not be bothered by it. We bought the Sleep Easy Sound Conditioner. Has several settings. About $15.00.

    - Betty
  2. What are your suggestions for people who work nights and have to go to sleep once the sun is up? This is a whole lot different then sleeping at night

    - Gregg Shive
  3. When I just CAN’T sleep, I get up and make a big drink of chocolate milk. I don’t have to warm it in the microwave, though sometimes I do. It seems like the sugar and the small amount of caffeine would keep me awake, but it seems to work practically every time. I think the calcium in the milk is a big factor. If you don’t sleep well, try drinking more milk or getting some other form of calcium.

    - jrparfitt
  4. We turned the lights down low and try to go to bed at the same time every night. If we need extra help we have a cup of sleep time tea and a nice warm bath.

    - April W.
  5. When my mind won’t shut down, I pray and give thanks for all the blessings I have. That puts everything in perspective for me and I am asleep!

    - Sherry O
  6. I found that by either turning the bedside clock to face away from me while sleeping or by putting something (in my case, an old dark sock) over the lighted dial really helped. Our 2 bedside clocks have lighted red digital numbers which somehow was disturbing our sleep. Even the clocks that emitted a blue color was disturbing. Happy Sleeping!

    - auntmeme
  7. Hi, I have what you call East Coast kidneys. I moved across country and I alway get up at 4am to go to the bathroom and then find myself awake and so I surrender to it and get up. The clock change is such a difference from the West Coast time. When I visit back on the East Coast I sleep until 7am. I haven’t been able to cure it in 34 years. ?????? I tried taking pills and it doesn’t matter I still wake up. Any suggestions?

    - Ruthann
  8. The following deep breathing exercise relaxes muscles and puts me to sleep. Slowly breathe in to the count of 8 seconds or until your lungs are completely full as in a deep sigh of relief. Hold for 3 seconds and breathe out through your mouth. Repeat 19 more times. You will probably fall asleep before you ever get close to 20 breaths! It is important to also turn off or cover any little electronic lights that shine in your bedroom all night with this exercise.

    - Andrea Morgan

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