Think you are the only one tossing and turning all night? Think again. The majority of people don't get all the sleep they need. Experts from the National Sleep Foundation recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep, while most people fall unfortunately short at only 6.8 hours of sleep per night. Prior to Thomas Edison's bright idea of the electric light bulb, people slept an average of 10 hours a night. Now that we have the lights on, televisions blaring, computer screen glaring, and a 40 plus hour workweek, we don't get the same amount or the same quality of sleep that the body needs. The best way to get a good night's sleep is to practice good sleep hygiene by following the ten healthy recommendations provided below.
Your Clock is Ticking. Your circadian clock, which tells your brain and body when it is time to sleep and wake, is running 24/7. A regular sleep and wake pattern helps strengthen the circadian function in your brain and body, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up on time. Try sticking to a similar sleep and wake schedule even on weekdays, weekends, and vacations to get your circadian clock going strong. If you follow these recommendations and still have trouble falling asleep, supplements that contain sleep-inducing ingredients (melatonin, 5HTP, Valerian), such as Nutrition 53's Sleep1, can help you establish an ideal sleep and wake pattern.
Get on the Program. Establishing a sleep program or routine for you to practice every night will help separate your sleep time from your wake time. Your routine should be relaxing and help clear your mind of your stressful day. Try soaking in a warm bathtub, reading a book, or listening to soft music. Make sure that your bedtime routine avoids bright lights that can stimulate your circadian clock to wake up instead of fall asleep. Also avoid any stressful activities such as working, paying bills, or arguments that are more arousing than sleep inducing.
Hit the Lights. The morning sunlight programs your circadian rhythms through photoreceptors in your eyes. When the sunshine peaks underneath the curtains, your photoreceptors detect the intensity of the light and stimulate your brain and body to wake up. To avoid stimulating your photoreceptors in the evening, eliminate bright lights that will mimic the sunshine of the morning and daytime. This includes computers, televisions, other bright electronic devices, and harsh lighting. Try using a soft lamp for reading or preparing for bedtime and use an eye mask if your sleeping area is not dark.
Treat Yourself Right. Not only does a good night's sleep feel wonderful, it is incredibly important for your physical and mental health. Because your quality of sleep is so important, you need to establish conditions that enhance your sleep. Make sure that your sleeping environment is cool, dark, quiet, and free of interruptions. You can do this by making sure your curtains are dark, using a fan or air conditioning to regulate temperature, and using earplugs to eliminate noises. Your mattress, pillows, and linens are also important and need be comfortable for you.
Save it for Sleep. Ideally, your sleeping environment is free of computers, televisions, and any work materials and reserved only for sleeping. This may not be possible, but at the very least, your bed needs to be reserved for sleep and not stressful reminders of a mess a report that's due, etc. Try to eliminate any activities or items you associate with stress from your entire sleeping environment. Eliminate any non-sleep activities from your bed . . . with perhaps one exception.
Don't Eat Before Bed Time. Dinners tend to be the largest meal of the day, but eating too much may make you uncomfortable when you lay down to sleep. Try to finish your last meal at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. If you suffer from heartburn, avoid spicy foods that may make you uncomfortable. Also avoid sugary foods that may disrupt your blood sugar.
Training to Sleep. One more reason to start or keep exercising - it helps you sleep better! Exercise makes it easier to fall asleep and sleep soundly through the night. Exercise raises your body temperature, but sleep is associated with a lower body temperature. For rigorous workouts, make sure you finish at least 3 hours before bedtime so that your body temperature has sufficient time to drop before you try to sleep. It is o.k. to wind down with relaxing stretching, yoga, or tai chi close to your bedtime, but reserve more intense exercises for the morning, afternoon, or early evening.
Skip the Stimulants. Skipping things that contain caffeine, such as coffee, teas, soda, and chocolate is a must in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine remains in your body an average of 3 to 5 hrs and makes it difficult to fall asleep. Some people think that caffeine does not affect them, but it still may disrupt and lessen the quality of their sleep. Avoid caffeine within 6 to 8 hours of your bedtime. Nicotine is also a stimulant and can make falling asleep difficult. If you cannot avoid nicotine all together, at least avoid it prior to bedtime.
Catch Some Rays. Catching some sunrays can help you catch your Z's. Eye exposure to the bright and powerful light of the sun actually sets your circadian rhythm and helps you entrain to a sleep and wake schedule. It is best to get your sun exposure in the mid-morning. Try taking a short walk in the morning sunshine as a break from work or eat your lunch outside, even in the winter. Just 5 to 10 minutes of exposure to the morning sun will help entrain your sleep and wake schedule.
Booze Won't Help You Snooze. Alcohol may make you feel sleepier, but it won't help you get a good night's sleep. Alcohol actually disrupts sleep, causing you to wake up frequently through the night. For a restful night's sleep, you are going to have to skip the martini and other alcohol in the late afternoon and evening.
Bill Romanowski is a 4-time NFL Super Bowl Champion player who endured the most grueling impact on his mind and body during his 16 year NFL career. During this time Bill learned how to harness premium nutrition to benefit both his mind and body. Romo is a living example of the quality of life that one can enjoy if they fuel their body with the correct nutrients. You can contact Bill at Nutrition53.