The Power of Sleep
A good night's sleep is a powerful tonic, promoting both physical and mental well-being. American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) President Dr. Safwan Badr says, "Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. You must sleep well to be well." The AASM notes that poor sleep is linked to problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. Interrupted sleep or not enough sleep can leave you feeling tired, irritable, sluggish, and hungry the next day. As we get older, we have less deep sleep at night. We also experience fewer episodes of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, the part of sleep where dreams occur.
Here are 10 tips for good sleep hygiene.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual such as watching television or reading, but not on a tablet or device emitting blue light, such as your cell phone. Some people keep blue-light-emitting devices out of the bedroom altogether.
- Avoid napping in the afternoon as it can reduce your body's drive to sleep at night.
- Exercise daily, preferably in the morning or afternoon—the more rigorously, the better.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Sleep on a comfy mattress with good pillows.
- Avoid bright light in the evening, but let the sun shine in through the windows in the morning to keep your body's circadian (internal clock) rhythms in good order.
- Avoid caffeine, cigarettes, heavy meals, and alcohol in the evening. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School notes that alcohol, while initially relaxing, acts as a stimulant after a few hours.
- If you lie awake in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up and move to another room. Read or listen to music until you feel tired enough to sleep, then go back to bed. The bedroom should be dedicated to sleeping only.
- When all else fails, some doctors recommend prescription sleep aids which are short-acting and won't leave you groggy the next day. Please consult a physician before taking any medication.
Note: some sleeping problems or interruptions are caused by underlying medical conditions such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or narcolepsy. If you suspect this might be the case for you, see your medical doctor or a sleep specialist.