Getting Better Sleep


Photo: Cottonbros

Everyone knows the importance of good sleep- especially the parents of small children, shift workers, and those whose sleep is disrupted for other reasons- but how do you get enough sleep when you have a bazillion things on your to-do list? Don’t worry, getting good sleep is possible- it just requires some lifestyle changes.


Tips For a Good Night’s Rest


Anyone who has tried to function on very little sleep can attest to the fact that it isn’t easy- and for good reason- sleep helps restore our bodies and our minds. The less sleep we get, the more difficulty we have with concentration, memory, performing tasks, and maintaining a good mood. The National Sleep Foundation, a foundation dedicated to sleep health, recommends that adults between 18 and 64 get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Adults over 65 have a slightly different sleep goal: 7 to 8 hours a night. They report that insomnia and health issues are major causes for poor sleep, but there are also other, more preventable reasons that people miss out on those zzz’s.


Food and Drink

It might sound like common knowledge, but you definitely don’t want to load up on the caffeine close to bedtime since it can keep you awake. Caffeine, alcohol, and certain foods that are greasy, heavy, high-fat, or high in sugar might keep you up at night or possibly cause you to wake up throughout the night. Eating healthy foods and well-balanced meals throughout the day will make it easier for you to sleep at night.


Not only does healthy eating help you fall asleep- setting up good sleep patterns also helps your dietary choices in general. Jean-Philippe Chaput, in the scientific article Sleep Patterns, Diet Quality, and Energy Balance, reports a link between poor sleep and increased caloric consumption and poor dietary habits. Why? Chaput proposes that there could be several reasons: “(1) more time and opportunities for eating, (2) psychological distress, (3) greater sensitivity to food reward, (4) disinhibited eating, (5) more energy needed to sustain extended wakefulness, and (6) changes in appetite hormones.


Making Sleep a Priority

Any busy person can understand the importance of a schedule. It may seem difficult to plan for good sleep with all the things we have to do each day- work, marriage, child-care, and any other activities we have on our schedule, including watching the latest episode of that show we like. Setting a schedule for yourself and sticking to it, however, will help you maintain good sleep health. Although it isn’t easy- it also helps to maintain the same schedule each day. If you can’t commit to large-scale change, maybe try going to bed 30 minutes early.


Creating a Routine

Anyone with kids understands the importance of a routine. But a routine doesn’t just work for the little ones, it can also be important for adults. Give yourself a bedtime routine that helps you to wind down. Often electronics and gadgets can cause wakefulness, so if that’s the case, make it part of your bedtime routine to put those items away at a certain time. Anything that relaxes you and helps you to feel restful should be a part of your bedtime routine.


And speaking of routines- if you routinely take long naps, it may be affecting your nighttime sleep. The Mayo Clinic, in the article Napping: Do’s and Don’ts for Healthy Adults, says “short naps generally don’t affect nighttime sleep quality for most people. But if you experience insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, napping might worsen these problems. Long or frequent naps might interfere with nighttime sleep.”


Get Physical Activity Each Day

Sometimes it’s difficult to feel tired but getting some exercise can help. Getting some physical activity during the day, whether it’s a long walk or maybe an exercise class may not only help you feel better, but it can also set you up for some good sleep. An article from Johns Hopkins, Exercising for Better Sleep, notes that “moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep you get.” They also report that “people who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise may see a difference in sleep quality that same night.”


It is important to note, however, that for some people, exercising too close to bedtime can make it more difficult to fall asleep. For these people, it might be helpful to exercise earlier in the day.


Create a Good Sleep Environment


We set the mood for many other things in our lives- why not set up a good environment for bedtime? Electronics and gadgets can interfere with our sleep and not only because we will feel the need to binge-watch the latest television show or to scroll through our Instagram feed because the television and our phones are nearby, but also because blue light can be disruptive to our sleep. Blue light, which emanates from our digital devices, can keep us from falling asleep. According to the Harvard article, Blue Light Has a Dark Side, “exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms. Even dim light can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion…Light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep, says [Stephen Lockley, Harvard sleep researcher] and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.” A cool, dark, quiet room is a great environment for your nighttime rest.


It might sound difficult to get a good night’s sleep and our lifestyles might make us feel like we’ll always be sleep-deprived, but there are simple changes we can make in order to maximize our rest. Eating well, getting some exercise during the day, developing a bedtime routine, creating a relaxing sleep environment, and making sleep a priority can help you get a little more rest. After all, we are our most creative, most joyful, most engaged selves when we give our bodies a chance to recharge.