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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ten Tips to Sleeping Better at Night

Sleep is one of the most important parts of a healthy lifestyle, but an incredible number of people suffer from lack of sleep. While this is sometimes caused by a sleep disorder, most of the time we create our own sleep problem through bad sleep habits.

Before running off to the drug store to pick up sleeping pills, or racing to the doctor’s office for a sleep test, consider these ten tips for a better night’s sleep.

1. Go to bed at the same time each night.

Life can get complicated, and it’s not uncommon for sleep to take a back seat to everything else that must be done in the day. You need to make sleep a priority. By setting up a regular bedtime and sticking to it, you can train your body and mind to shut down, allowing you to easily drift into a peaceful night’s sleep.

2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine.

By following the same basic routine each night before bed, you can sleep-train your mind to settle down for bed each night. Whether it is having a shower, reading a book, or writing in your diary, keeping a regular routine is the key to getting yourself into bed, relaxed and ready to sleep.

3. Make sure your sleep environment is sleep-friendly.

While this may seem obvious, it is surprising just how many people have bedrooms that are poorly designed for sleep. Be sure to have a comfortable mattress, a properly stuffed pillow, adequate bedding, and enough space to sleep comfortably. The temperature in the room should be adjusted to suit your personal sleep preference. Also, be sure the room can be darkened enough to make it easy to sleep, even if you need to go to bed when it is still light outside.

4. Keep the bed and bedroom for sleeping.

It is far too easy to bring work or other stressors of the day into your bed if you have them in the room with you. Establish a sanctum in your bedroom where you can leave the rest of life behind at the door. The only activities permitted in your bed are sleeping and lovemaking. Anything else can be done elsewhere.

5. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bed.

Caffeine is a stimulant and nicotine and alcohol can suppress deep sleep. You will likely have a hard time falling asleep, and will not fall into as deep a sleep if you drink coffee or alcohol, or smoke with 3-4 hours of your bedtime.

6. Avoid eating before bed.

It is best to avoid eating within 2 hours of your bedtime. Your body is too busy digesting the food and often has a burst of energy from the calories you just took in. If you must have a snack before bed, eat it at least 30 minutes before bed, and keep it under 300 calories. Try something like some yogurt sprinkled with granola, or apple slices with peanut butter, or even some healthy cereal with milk.

7. Get enough exercise.

While exercise just before bed is a usually bad idea, getting enough exercise through the day helps you get a good night’s sleep. Your body will function more efficiently through exercise, and will have a stronger need for sleep when you are ready for bed.

8. Try using sound and scent to promote sleep.

It has been shown that listening to soothing music or smelling aroma-therapeutic scents such as lavender helps prepare the mind for sleep. Try listening to music half an hour or so before bedtime. Try burning aromatherapy candles or having a scented bath.

9. Have a warm drink.

Taking a warm drink before bed can help raise your body temperature and prepare you for sleep. Try warming up a mug of milk with a touch of sugar to sweeten it, or perhaps a cup of chamomile tea.

10. Don’t overstress about getting to sleep.

If you find that you can’t get to sleep, try getting up and reading a relaxing book or listening to music for a while. Avoid fretting about the lack of sleep, instead taking advantage of the time to rest and relax even while awake. Try going to sleep again after half an hour. Be sure to avoid anything physically active or stressful during this time – relaxation is the priority.

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