Honestly, tell the truth: Is the quality of your sleep satisfactory?
If you’re like most Americans, the answer is no.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, forty percent of people age 40 to 59 reported that they are getting less than recommended amounts of sleep. Sleep Advisor reports that 50 to 70 million people in the US suffer from one or several sleep disorders. And lack of sleep costs the United States over $411 billion annually, according to Fortune Magazine.
We all know that sleep is necessary for our physical and mental health, of course, but we still take sleep for granted. The good news, however, is that even small, subtle changes to our nighttime routine can help us achieve the deep, restful sleep our bodies deserve.
Here are four tips that can lead to waking up feeling refreshed:
- Establish a routine – and stick to it
We’re creatures of habit, so if we create a routine for ourselves, we will reset our internal clock to expect sleep after a certain time each night. One way of achieving this is by going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day. Another way is to find one calming activity that works for you and make that your pre-bed ritual (i.e. dim the lights, read (even if it’s just a page or two), or listen to soft music).
- Be mindful of what you eat and drink
What we eat and drink prior to bedtime can greatly affect our sleep. Of course, we already know to nix the caffeine. But do you also know to say no to alcohol, too? While an alcoholic drink in the evenings may help you fall asleep, studies have shown that it can prevent you from entering the deep stages of sleep that are vital to restoring your mind and body. And then there’s this: High-fat and high-protein foods (steak), as well as those containing high amounts of fiber (broccoli or cauliflower), shouldn’t be eaten too close to bedtime because these kinds of foods take longer for our bodies to digest, which can cause discomfort while we sleep. It’s best to eat dinner earlier in the evening, and if you’re still hungry, have a light snack before bedtime.
- Tune out and unplug
Make an effort to disconnect from the outside world. A lot of us are guilty of trying to relax via TV, tablet, or by scrolling through social media on our phone in bed, but this can actually have the opposite effect. Turn off devices—the light they emit can activate our brain and cause our body to think it’s time to wake up instead of go to sleep.
- Get regular exercise
Regular exercise, especially when done earlier in the day, can help us fall asleep faster and increase the amount of time we spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. The key is, though, to complete any moderate to vigorous exercise more than three to four hours before bed. If done too late in the evening, exercising can make falling asleep even more difficult.