Guidelines for getting better, more restful sleep

  1. 1.  Get on schedule. Varying your sleeping times by more than an hour can severely disrupt your sleep quality by "advancing the sleep phase". For example, let's say you normally wake up at 6 a.m. on weekdays to get to work, so you get to bed around 10 p.m. because that's when you start to feel sleepy (and it's also a good time to ensure 8 hours of sleep). If, on the weekend, you sleep in until 9 a.m., you probably won't be able to fall asleep that night until 1 a.m. again. In other words, your body thrives on running on a routine; erratic sleeping sessions will interfere with your internal "biological clock". For some people, and depending on work and your daily routine, a very short rest in the afternoon (the Spanish call it a siesta) could help alleviate drowsiness some people experience during the day. But make sure not to oversleep.

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  2. Be mindful of what you eat or drink before bed.
    2.  Be mindful of what you eat or drink before bed. Your stomach should not be too full, but not too empty. Wait at least three hours after dinner before going to sleep. Digestion slows down while asleep, and a full stomach may interrupt sleep. Do not eat heavy foods for the few hours prior to sleep. Similarly, you should avoid going to bed on an empty stomach, as a completely empty stomach may equally interfere with your sleeping patterns.   Switch to decaffeinated coffee and avoid tea, cocoa and cola drinks. Caffeine can keep you awake even if you drank it earlier in the day, as the effects of caffeine can last up to 12 hours. Avoid tobacco products in the evenings as well. Try to avoid drinking water or other fluids one hour before you go to sleep, but make sure you drink at least 2 liters of water during the day. A well hydrated body will not wake you up thirsty in the middle of the night. While alcohol will make you feel sleepy, it will reduce sleep quality. If you find that your stomach is grumbling for food and is keeping you awake, have a light snack about an hour before bedtime, but avoid foods high in carbohydrates or sugar. turkey, yogurt, soy beans, tuna, and peanuts. Tryptophan helps the body produce serotonin in order to relax.
  3. 3.  Keep the room as dark as possible. Exposure to light during the time you're supposed to be sleeping can disrupt your body's internal clock. This has been documented in studies surrounding circadian rhythms. Turn your light off, or use a very dim night light. Pull blinds down or shut the shutters to prevent outdoor lights from shining on you. If you wake up and see any kind of bright light, you'll have a much harder time falling back asleep. Try to eliminate all sources of light, including windows, LED clocks, computer lights and cable boxes by covering them with heavy paper, cloth covers or blue tack.
  4. 4.  Use a white noise generator. These have been shown to not only help people fall asleep more quickly, but also disguise other noises that may wake you during the night.
  5. 5.  Change your sleeping position. You may think that it's impossible to control what position you sleep in since you aren't fully aware of what you are doing, but it is possible and it can make a considerable difference. When you go to sleep, or if you wake up in the middle of the night, make a conscious effort to follow these guidelines until it becomes habitual:

    • Keep your body in a "mid-line" position, where both your head and neck are kept roughly straight. Don't use a flat pillow that causes your head to tilt down toward the mattress. Likewise, don't stack your pillows so that your head is propped at an angle.

      Keep your body in a "mid-line" position, where both your head and neck are kept roughly straight.
    • Place a pillow between your legs if you sleep on your side.
      Place a pillow between your legs if you sleep on your side. This will support your hips and make this position more comfortable.
    • Place a pillow under your legs if you sleep on your back.
      Place a pillow under your legs if you sleep on your back.
    • Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
      Avoid sleeping on your stomach. It's difficult to maintain the proper position, and it is more likely to cause aches and pains. This will help alleviate stress on your back and neck by slightly propping up your body on one side.
  6. Maintain your mattress.
    6.  Maintain your mattress. Replace it after 5-7 years of regular use. If you feel springs or ridges beneath the surface when you're lying on the bed, or you and your partner roll to the middle of the bed unintentionally, it's time to go mattress shopping. You may also find that the mattress is to blame if you find yourself sleeping better in another bed.
  7. 7.  Exercise. If you have a sedentary job, a lack of physical exertion may be reducing the quality of your sleep. The human body uses sleep to repair and recover. If there isn't much from which to recover, your body's sleep cycle could be disrupted.     A day of physical exertion (such as taking a walk, a run, or a swim) or, better yet, regular exercise can make for deeper and more restful sleep. Don't exercise right before bed to help you get to sleep; it tires out your muscles, boosts your heart rate, and makes you even wider awake.
  8. 8.  Make note of unusual circumstances. Many outside factors can contribute to overall sleep problems, including stress, certain illnesses, or short-term post-traumatic stress. Have there been any recent events or changes that have been troubling or otherwise preoccupying you? This issue may be following you subconsciously and interfering with your sleep. If the issue itself cannot be addressed or resolved directly, consider employing relaxation techniques such as meditation.
  9. 9.   Take melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in your brain. The pineal actively converts serotonin to melatonin when it is dark, but when light is present it does not do so and the melatonin oxidizes back into serotonin. Artificial lighting (including computer or television monitors) can interfere with the synthesis of melatonin; supplementing with melatonin pills is a natural way to induce sleep, especially if you are physically tired at night but are still unable to fall asleep.
  10. 10.  Try plain antihistamine products that cause drowsiness. These are safe when taken without extra ingredients – i.e. no pain reliever, nor decongestant, expectorant, etc. Read the labels to know what you’re getting into. Try 1/2 or less of the usual dose so that you don’t end up with morning/daytime drowsiness, which will only make your sleep situation worse.
    • You want to be lying down in bed when your drowsiness kicks in.
    • If you use prescription drugs, check with your doctor before taking anything else. Never blindly mix medications.
  11. 11.  Visit your doctor if you are concerned that you have a sleep disorder.     Some of the most common sleep disorders are insomnia, obstructive sleep Apnea (OSA), restless legs syndrome (RLS), narcolepsy, parasomnias, and heartburn (acid reflux). If you are indeed suffering from and are diagnosed with any of these conditions, your doctor will recommend treatment accordingly.

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