You’ve heard the jokes before. “My bed is a magical place where I suddenly remember everything I was supposed to do.” “People who say they sleep like a baby, probably don’t have one.” “I’ve had about the right combination of sleep deprivation and caffeine to know that I can fly…on a broomstick!”
Hilarious? Not really. Sleep loss is serious and can affect daily functions such as alertness, short-term memory and creativity. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to diseases such as diabetes, obesity, depression and high blood pressure. To top that off, when we don’t sleep well, we are hungrier the next day and we crave sugary drinks; the results lead to long-term weight gain.
According to most experts, adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. But the truth is, most of us don’t get anywhere near that and a third of us are getting less than six hours of slumber. And don’t try to sleep late on weekends. Experts say that even though we are accumulating sleep hours, our bodies become out of rhythm with our normal pattern, so our sleep isn’t as restful and we feel even more tired on Monday.
So how do we get more and better quality Zs? Experts continually study and update ideas, but a few tips stand out among the “rest.”
Oh, My Sheets!
When it comes to improving sleep, mattress comfort is important, but don’t forget about the bedding. Bed sheets and pillow cases could be the reason you’re not refreshed when you wake up each morning. And, contrary to popular belief, a higher thread count might not be the solution. In fact, there may be no relationship between the thread count of your sheet set and the quality of your rest. If you do some research online, you’ll quickly see that thread can be easily manipulated and thread count and quality can be unpredictable.
Instead, focus on your personal needs. Check stores for sheets that feel good to you; purchase new sheets every 18 to 24 months and, at the very least, buy new pillowcases every year. Some stores and manufacturers offer bedding that wicks away heat and moisture and helps regulate body temperature, improving recovery while you sleep. This is a simple and easy change. Remember, your wedding bedding may have seen better days. Other factors also play a part in how well we saw logs:
It’s just another reason to move; exercise can increase overall sleep time by more than an hour each night. Working out significantly increases your core temperature, so when your body temperature returns to normal a few hours after a workout, it becomes easier to fall asleep. For the best rest, don’t work out within two hours of bedtime, as your heart rate needs time to come down to resting.
Research shows that losing just ten percent of your body weight significantly improves symptoms of OSA, or obstructive sleep apnea. This includes snoring, which can keep your partner awake too.
Take a chill pill. Set the thermostat a little cooler. Start at 68 degrees Fahrenheit and crank it down to 65 degrees, or even as low as 60 degrees, if you’re still having trouble getting shut-eye.
Eat to Sleep
Make sure you are not hungry before you go to bed, but don’t eat a sweet treat. Sugar can be a stimulant on the body, revving it up instead of calming it down.
Put the cell phone down and keep it at least three feet away from your bed. Turn off the alerts, unless you need the alarm clock. Use the bedroom for sleep and sex, not texts.
Most people don’t jazz it up right before bed with caffeine, but that latte at lunch may have a similar effect. Understand how your body reacts to this super stimulant even if you drink it earlier in the day.
Three Things to Do When You Cannot Sleep
Just breathe. Slowly inhale for five counts, hold for three counts, and exhale for five counts. Repeat this pattern. By slowing breathing, the body relaxes physically and mentally, making it easier to drift away.
Melt into your bed. Contract and relax your muscles one area at a time. Start at the feet and move your way upward. By the time you reach your shoulders you are one step closer to dozing off.
See success. If sleep seems far off, try visualizing what a perfect day would look like tomorrow. Imagine waking up with mounds of energy and completing your tasks. Don’t rush. It typically takes about 15 minutes to go through an entire day.
We can joke about sleep all day, but we certainly can’t sleep all day. By concentrating on our surroundings and rest habits, we put ourselves in charge of our slumber. Nighty night. ■
Sources: bedgear.com, healthysleep.med.harvard.edu and sleepfoundation.org.