10 secrets for a sound sleep at night
|A sound sleep at night. Photo: Sound Sleep Medical|
Going for a brisk daily walk won't just trim you down, it will also keep you up less often at night. Exercise boosts the effect of natural sleep hormones such as melatonin, Dr. Carlson says. A study in the journal Sleep found that postmenopausal women who exercised for about three-and-a-half hours a week had an easier time falling asleep than women who exercised less often. Just watch the timing of your workouts. Exercising too close to bedtime can be stimulating. Carlson says a morning workout is ideal. "Exposing yourself to bright daylight first thing in the morning will help the natural circadian rhythm," she says.
2. Start a sleep ritual
When you were a child and your mother read you a story and tucked you into bed every night, this comforting ritual helped lull you to sleep. Even in adulthood, a set of bedtime rituals can have a similar effect. "Rituals help signal the body and mind that it's coming to be time for sleep," explains Dr. Carlson. Drink a glass of warm milk. Take a bath. Or listen to calming music to unwind before bed.
3. Eat - but not too much
A grumbling stomach can be distracting enough to keep you awake, but so can an overly full belly. Avoid eating a big meal within two to three hours of bedtime. If you're hungry right before bed, eat a small healthy snack (such as an apple with a slice of cheese or a few whole-wheat crackers) to satisfy you until breakfast, according to Heath Harvard Publishing.
4. Avoid alcohol and caffeine
If you do have a snack before bed, wine and chocolate shouldn't be part of it. Chocolate contains caffeine, which is a stimulant. Surprisingly, alcohol has a similar effect. "People thinks it makes them a little sleepy, but it's actually a stimulant and it disrupts sleep during the night," Dr. Carlson says. Also stay away from anything acidic (such as citrus fruits and juices) or spicy, which can give you heartburn.
The bills are piling up and your to-do list is a mile long. Daytime worries can bubble to the surface at night. "Stress is a stimulus. It activates the fight-or-flight hormones that work against sleep," Dr. Carlson says. Give yourself time to wind down before bed. "Learning some form of the relaxation response can promote good sleep and can also reduce daytime anxiety." To relax, try deep breathing exercises. Inhale slowly and deeply, and then exhale.
6. Get checked
An urge to move your legs, snoring, and a burning pain in your stomach, chest, or throat are symptoms of three common sleep disrupters—restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, and gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. If these symptoms are keeping you up at night or making you sleepy during the day, see your doctor for an evaluation.
7. Power Down
The soft blue glow from a cell phone, tablet, or digital clock on your bedside table may hurt your sleep.
Tip: Turn off TVs, computers, and other blue-light sources an hour before you go to bed. Cover any displays you can't shut off.
8. Try a Leg Pillow for Back Pain
Your lower back may not hurt enough to wake you up, but mild pain can disturb the deep, restful stages of sleep. Put a pillow between your legs to align your hips better and stress your lower back less.
9. Put Your Neck in 'Neutral'
Blame your pillow if you wake up tired with a stiff neck. It should be just the right size -- not too fat and not too flat -- to support the natural curve of your neck when you're resting on your back. Do you sleep on your side? Line your nose up with the center of your body. Don’t snooze on your stomach. It twists your neck, as said by WebMD.
10. Free Your Mind
Put aside any work, touchy discussions, or complicated decisions 2 to 3 hours before bed. It takes time to turn off the "noise" of the day. If you’ve still got a lot on your mind, jot it down and let go for the night. Then, about an hour before you hit the sack, read something calming, meditate, listen to quiet music, or take a warm bath.
|Free your mind could improve the quality of your sleep. Photo: Web MD|
We all have trouble sleeping from time to time, but when insomnia persists day after day, it can become a real problem. Beyond making us tired and moody, a lack of sleep can have serious effects on our health, increasing our propensity for obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
If you've been having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you may have turned to sleep medications in search of more restful slumber. However, these drugs can have side effects—including appetite changes, dizziness, drowsiness, abdominal discomfort, dry mouth, headaches, and strange dreams. A recent study in the British Medical Journal associated several hypnotic sleep aids, including zolpidem (Ambien) and temazepam (Restoril), with a possible increased risk of death (although it couldn't confirm how much of the risk was related to these drugs), Heath Harvard Publishing cites.
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