Easy Fixes for Better Sleep

sleeping african princessAre you tired of counting sheep, getting up three or four times during the night and always feeling tired and unrested in the morning? If you have had difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep for more than 90 days, you may need to get professional help, but there are a lot easy things we can all do – or not do – on our own in order to get a better night’s sleep.

The first thing to consider is how to make your bedroom a sleep-friendly environment.

  • Your bedroom should be your “bat cave” – dark and quiet.
  •  It should be comfortably cool. Use a fan and a cooling blanket if you get too warm during the night.
  • A cluttered room can increase anxiety at bedtime, so try to keep your sleeping room tidy.
  • Cotton, cotton, cotton! It breathes better than other fabrics, so cotton PJs and sheets are best.
  • Allergies can interrupt sleep, so keep things as clean as possible. Use an air purifier, change sheets and clean carpets often. Your pillow is like a petri dish for germs and allergens. Change it out once a year and replace mattresses every five years.

There are also some simple behavioral changes that can help you get better sleep.

  • Unplug! Using laptops, tablets and phones right before bed or even having them in the room at night can alter your circadian rhythm, and the blue light they emit is very bad for sleep. Late night TV can also disturb sleep.
  • Avoid doing work and answering emails at bedtime. This can increase anxiety or be too stimulating.
  • Try to have a regular bedtime – within 30 minutes – every night. This helps to set your internal clock and get you ready for sleep.
  • Avoid late meals – especially spicy, fatty or acidic foods.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol at bedtime.
  • A warm shower or bath at night is good, but not right before bedtime, because it can raise your core body temperature.
  • Try to avoid negative thoughts that increase stress late at night.
  • Relaxation techniques like meditation, prayer, yoga breathing, and even blowing bubbles can help.
  • Get more exercise during the day.
  • Remember that there are only three things that should happen in bed: sleep, sickness and sex.
  • This may not be negotiable for some pet owners, but having Fido in bed can increase allergies and disturb sleep.
  • Make your bed every day. It’s been shown that routine bed makers are better sleepers. Mom was right!
  • Have less light at night but more in the daytime. Get sun exposure during the day or try a light therapy box in winter.
  • Quit smoking! It’s terrible for your health in general, and smoking at night can cause restlessness.

I’d like to leave you with one final tip for a good night’s sleep. Embrace the idea that sleep is vital for good health and make it a priority in your life. The benefits you’ll reap are well worth the effort.

Seema Gulyani, NP, Ph.D, is with the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital. For information or to schedule an appointment, call 1-800-WESLEEP (1-800-937-5337) or visit hcgh.org/sleep.

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