10 Tips for a Better Night's Sleep

Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily, yet more than one-third of Americans report not getting the recommended amount of sleep. Not only can a lack of sleep make you feel sluggish, it may also lead to health issues including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression.

Although sleep problems may seem hopeless, they do not have to be a part of your nightly routine. Prevent sleepless nights with these ten helpful tips:

  1. Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
    Going to bed and getting up every day at the same time helps your body get into the rhythm it needs to fall asleep at night with ease. Even on weekends, try to sleep no more than one hour later than you do on weekdays.
  2. Avoid too much coffee or alcohol late in the day.
    Coffee, as a stimulant, drank later in the day can keep your mind spinning way past bedtime. Also, studies have shown that once alcohol's sedative qualities wear off, sleep quality is affected by increased and sporadic wake periods during the night.
  3. Use your bed only for sleep.
    Although it is tempting to read, watch TV, or work on your computer while in your bed, this may not be best for your sleep hygiene. Train your body to associate being in bed with sleeping.
  4. Decrease mental stimulation before bed.
    With frequently hectic lifestyles, many US adults often work up to the very last minute of each day without setting any time aside for relaxation. If you sense muscle tension is to blame, try practicing yoga, engaging in meditation, or using breathing exercises to loosen up your tension before going to bed.
  5. Get regular physical activity.
    In addition to its important role in weight management and prevention of many chronic illnesses, adding physical activity to your daily routine can help facilitate sleep when you need it most. However, try not to exercise too close to your normal bedtime as this may lead to difficulty in falling asleep.
  6. Skip the big meals before heading to bed.
    Eating large amounts of food close to bedtime can lead discomfort such as heartburn, acid reflux, and other gastrointestinal issues. If you are hungry close to your bedtime, try eating a light snack or drinking a soothing, non-caffeinated beverage to ease your hunger symptoms and prepare yourself for a restful night sleep.
  7. Refrain from long naps.
    Long naps can contribute to late night alertness and throw off your night time sleep routine. If you feel you need a nap, limit it to 10-15 minutes. This can provide a quick recharge from fatigue without sacrificing your sleep quality at night.
  8. Manage your nicotine use.
    As a stimulant, nicotine can leave users lying wide awake at night or waking up throughout the night with cravings. It is best to avoid nicotine, yet if you are a nicotine user, try to avoid use 4-6 hours before bedtime.
  9. Consider the "20-minute rule."
    If after 20 minutes of lying in bed you find yourself still awake, move to another quiet space and engage in relaxing activities such as reading or listening to calming music. Once you begin to feel drowsy, try to go back to bed again.
  10. Make a to-do list.
    Work, financial issues, and many other life worries are enough to keep our minds spinning late into the night. Instead of focusing on these sources of anxiety, try writing a "to-do" list before bedtime to remind yourself where to pick up the next day.

These strategies are inexpensive fixes to sleep issues that can offer many additional health benefits. If falling asleep continues to be difficult, consider talking with your physician about other possible options to help you get a good night's sleep.