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Sunday, February 8, 2009

How to get a Good Night's Sleep

If you’re tired of trudging through the day in a fatigue-induced fog, take heart! Here are 14 tips to help you get the shuteye you need and deserve.
Can’t sleep? You’re not alone. Forty-seven percent of adults would like to improve the quality of their sleep, and 37 percent feel that they do not get enough rest, according to a recent survey conducted by the Better Sleep Council (BSC).

Part of the reason that sleep seems so elusive is the demands of the workday world. Back-to-back meetings, heavy meals, and high doses of caffeine from 9 to 5 all can make it more diffiicult to get that restorative shuteye. Long work days, lack of sleep and irregular sleep routines tire us out, and the resulting fatigue not only impairs our ability to make sound decisions on the job, but dulls our senses, decreases productivity and ups the risk of mental mistakes and even physical injury due to accidents.

All of us have experienced the misery of lying awake at night, worrying about the sleep we aren’t getting, then stumbling through the day. The good news is that you can improve your chances of a good night’s sleep by making your sleep environment as comfortable and snooze-inducing as possible. Better Sleep Council Director Andrea Herman has found that, “unlike other sleep-robbing culprits, like stress or illness, sleep environment factors are controllable. This means that millions are needlessly sleep-deprived and suffering the consequences.” While she admits that “growing demands on our lives and endless ‘to do’ lists can make it difficult to get enough sleep,” she adds that “it’s important to make sleep a priority and to strive to get the best quality sleep that we can.

“We all have too much to do, so make the most out of your time in bed,” Herman says. “How well you sleep at night can make all the difference in how productive you’ll be the next day. Sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room on a comfortable, supportive mattress to help ensure a great night’s sleep.”

The following tips should help you get the sleep you need and deserve.

1. Give yourself “permission” to go to bed. As hard as it may be to put away your “to do” list, make sleep a priority. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.

2. Unwind early in the evening. Try to deal with worries and distractions several hours before bedtime.

3. Develop a sleep ritual. Doing the same things each night just before bed signals your body to settle down for the night. Some people find that reading a romance novel or a similarly escapist book until they get drowsy helps them drift off to dreamland.

4. Keep regular hours. Keep your biological clock in check by going to bed around the same time each night and waking up close to the same time each morning, even on weekends.

5. Sleep in a dark room to get a restful night’s sleep. Just as light cues
our bodies to wake up, darkness cues us to sleep. If outside light makes your room too bright, try an eye mask or window coverings that darken the bedroom.

6. Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress and foundation. It’s difficult to sleep on a bed that’s too small, too soft, too hard, or too old.

7. Exercise regularly. Working out at (east three times a week can help relieve tension and stress. Be careful not to exercise too close to bedtime or you may have trouble falling asleep.

8. Cut down on stimulants. Consuming stimulants, such as caffeine, in the evening can make it more difficult to fall asleep.

9. Don’t smoke. Smokers take longer to fall asleep and wake up more often during the night.

10. Reduce alcohol intake. Drinking alcohol shortly before bedtime interrupts and fragments sleep.

11. Don’t go to bed stuffed or starved. A stomach that is either too full or too empty may cause physical discomfort, making it difficult to sleep through the night.

12. Eat foods that can help you sleep. If you’re hungry and can’t get to sleep, try eating foods that contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, such as milk, eggs, tuna fish, cottage cheese and poultry.

13. Earplugs or a white noise machine may help if noise is a problem. Sudden, loud noises from outside or inside the bedroom can result in fragmented sleep.

14. If you’re too hot or too cold, simply adjust the thermostat. When a bedroom is too hot or too cold, both quality and quantity of sleep are compromised. The optimal temperature for sleep is between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 16 to 18 degrees Celsius.

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