Lack of sleep can wreak havoc with your day-to-day life, causing fatigue and irritability. There are a variety of factors that can contribute to poor sleep, but that doesn't mean you're doomed to toss and turn. What follows are some of the best tips and techniques for improving sleeping habits and getting a full, refreshing night's sleep.
1. Create a Routine
Creating a sleep routine helps condition the body to adjust to your desired sleep schedule. Aim to get in bed at roughly the same time each night, and try to establish consistent behavior before bed. Some people may need to take a shower or read before falling asleep, for instance. Through repetition, it is possible to "program" the body to fall asleep at a proper time.
2. Eliminate Distractions
Good sleep depends on eliminating any stimuli that might keep the body from powering down for the night. Make sure to turn off any television, music, and lights before bed. If possible, cover electronic displays, such as alarm clock faces or power indicators. If you find yourself waking up too early due to excessive sunlight, consider investing in special blackout curtains to keep your room as dark as possible.
3. Create a Relaxing Environment
Falling asleep happens much easier and more quickly when the body can fully relax. Generally, this means that your bedroom should be cool and dark, and that your mattress and pillows are comfortable. Many people sleep better with some kind of ambient noise, such as a fan or white noise generator, in the background, while others prefer complete silence. Find what works best for you and create that environment each night.
4. Make Enough Time
Make sure to schedule an appropriate amount of time for sleeping each day. In general, aim for 7-8 hours each night. Sleeping significantly less or more than that can throw off your body's sleep patterns, and consistently getting insufficient sleep can even develop into insomnia over time. Also, make sure to factor in how long it usually takes you to get to sleep.
5. Nap Strategically
Naps can be a great tool, but it's important to know how to use them. In general, you should only nap to make up any resting time you missed the day before. If you aren't particularly tired, a daytime nap can actually make going to sleep at night more challenging. If you do decide to take a nap, try to wake up within thirty minutes to an hour.
6. Avoid Food and Drink Before Bedtime
Going to sleep hungry can make it harder to get to sleep, as can going to sleep completely stuffed after a large meal. Similarly, drinking beverages late in the evening can force you to take bathroom breaks in the middle of the night, interrupting your sleep. Alcohol and beverages containing caffeine are especially prone to causing sleep problems.
7. Know When to See a Professional
Finally, realize that if none of the other strategies are working, you may be suffering from a legitimate sleep disorder. Consider consulting with a specialist if you still have regular, long-term problems falling asleep or staying asleep. Waking up exhausted, experiencing frequent headaches in the morning, or falling asleep at inappropriate times may also be signs that it's time to make a call.
At the end of the day, improving the quality of your sleep can be as simple as establishing a routine and adopting the helpful habits above. Everyone responds to each technique in unique ways, so make an effort to experiment and find a combination of strategies that works to give you the deep, refreshing sleep that you deserve.
Source: BPA Health - Providing behavioral healthcare solutions that help people improve their lives. For more information about BPA's Employee Assistance Program, please call 800-211-9477 or visit www.bpahealth.com.