Although a certain amount of hours of sleep is recommended by the medical community, it isn’t just about being in bed for a prescribed period of time. It is important the sleep be restful. A night of tossing and turning or lying awake for hours is not physically or mentally beneficial.
Adults generally need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Throughout the night, your body transitions in and out of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During REM sleep, people dream. When you are not in an REM sleep cycle you are considered to be in a deep sleep. Both types of sleep are required. If you do not get a restful sleep, the next day you may experience the following:
- Inability to concentrate
- Mood disturbance
- More likely to fall or have an accident
People who do not get a restful sleep may have one of the following issues:
- Takes a long time to fall asleep
- Frequently wakes up during the night
- Wakes up too early and can’t fall back asleep
- Wakes up feeling tired
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 35% of Americans have insomnia symptoms. The causes vary. Some possible causes include:
- Poor sleep environment
- Medication side effects
- Poor sleep routine
In some cases, insomnia is temporary. For example, after an illness has been cured, the insomnia disappears. In other cases, the insomnia is chronic. Difficulty sleeping can become a habit. People who have experienced insomnia in the past may now start to worry about being able to sleep before they even get into bed. This perpetuates the insomnia.
People with insomnia often consider using an over-the-counter sleep medicine. They may also request a prescription sleep medicine from their doctor. It is best to attempt to develop healthy sleep habits before trying a medication. To help yourself achieve a restful sleep at night, consider implementing the following tips.
Create a Schedule and Follow It
Many people run into issues when they try to vary their sleep schedule on the weekends. After waking up all week at 6am, they want to stay up late at night and sleep in late in the morning. It is best to define a sleep schedule and follow it every day. Your body’s clock will be regulated to the sleep schedule, making it easier to achieve quality sleep.
Define a Routine
Having a bedtime routine you follow every night will help your body recognize that it is time to get ready for sleep. Consider activities such as:
- Taking a bath
- Listening to calming music
- Reading a book
Use dim lighting during your bedtime routine and avoid activities that will cause you stress or anxiety (such as paying the bills). When you wake up in the morning, expose yourself to bright light to let your body know it is time to be awake.
Many people who feel tired during the day turn to naps to help them get through the day. This should be avoided if you have nighttime sleep issues. If necessary, take a power nap (less than 30 minutes) early in the day. Do not nap in the afternoon or evening.
Avoid Caffeine, Cigarettes, and Alcohol
Caffeine is widely recognized as a stimulant that will keep you awake. Therefore, it should be avoided up to 6 hours before bedtime. Keep in mind that caffeine is not just found in coffee. Caffeine is also located in:
- Some medications, such as pain relievers
It is not common knowledge that cigarettes and alcohol also interfere with sleep. In fact, many people turn to alcohol to help them sleep. Although it may make it easier to fall asleep, alcohol is known to disrupt sleep throughout the night. Avoid drinking alcohol 3 hours prior to bed.
Light Snack and Liquid
Have your dinner several hours before bed so your stomach has time to digest the food prior to falling asleep. If you often wake up hungry at night, allow yourself a small, light snack about 45 minutes before bed. Pick something that is high in protein so you stay full throughout the night. Also, make a selection that won’t cause indigestion.
Avoid drinking a large amount of water or other fluid before bedtime. This will help you avoid a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night. It is okay to allow yourself a small amount of fluid so you don’t wake up thirsty, however.
Exercise During the Day
Getting exercise at some point during the day will help you get a restful sleep at night. Keep in mind that exercising right before bedtime may make it difficult to fall asleep. This is because exercise increases your heart rate and causes the release of adrenaline. Therefore, it is best to exercise at least 3 hours before bed.
Create a Sleep Environment
Your bedroom needs to provide the appropriate environment for sleep. First, set the temperature low. People sleep best in a cooler environment. Consider setting the temperature between 60 and 67 degrees.
Next, evaluate the light level in your room. Complete darkness is desirable. Use blackout curtains to keep out light from street lamps. These curtains will also prevent the morning sun from waking you up too early. In addition, face alarm clocks to the wall and turn off any monitors.
Many people find they need some level of noise to sleep. Consider running a fan or white noise machine. Other people need silence. Use ear plugs, if necessary, especially if your spouse snores.
Your sleep environment needs to be free of clutter and items that will cause you stress. Therefore, keep work materials, computers, bills and other stress-inducing items in a different room.
Use a Comfortable Mattress
A comfortable mattress is very important and often overlooked. It should be supportive so you don’t wake up feeling stiff or achy. Many people keep their mattresses for too many years without realizing that the old mattress is making it difficult to achieve a restful sleep. Replace your mattress if it is over 7 years old. If you find your mattress is not comfortable or interferes with your ability to sleep, a new mattress may be what you need. Consider purchasing one made with natural materials to reduce the risk of allergens interrupting your sleep.
New Pillows Too
Don’t overlook the importance of pillows. Again, they have a lifespan and should be replaced. When you get a new mattress, buy new pillows as well. The pillows ensure your neck and head are properly aligned with your spine.
If you have implemented the above suggestions and are still having trouble achieving a restful sleep, consider starting a sleep diary. Record details such as:
- When you last ate food, drank caffeine, drank alcohol or had tobacco
- What you ate for dinner and before bed
- When you went to bed
- When you woke up
- The quality of your sleep
- If you struggled to fall asleep or stay asleep
- How you felt when you woke up (tired, achy, well rested, etc)
- Did something wake you up?
The sleep diary may help you identify patterns in your sleep issues. In some cases, people use the diary to figure out what is interrupting their sleep. For example, it may be that a pet jumps on the bed at 3am. This wakes the person up and they are unable to fall back asleep. Keeping the pet out of the room at night solves this issue.
Finally, if you are still struggling to get a restful sleep, consider talking to your doctor. You may have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome. A sleep specialist can help you identify a clinical sleep issue. They can also provide a treatment plan.
If you are in need of a new mattress to improve your sleep quality, simply contact your nearest Urban Mattress store.