If you spend your nights counting sheep and your days fighting to stay awake, you’re not alone. More than a third of Americans sleep poorly, according to a 2014 National Sleep Foundation survey.
Lack of quality shut eye does more than make you groggy and grouchy — it also negatively affects your health. Sleep deprivation can cause weight gain and increase your risk of developing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.
Here are some sleep tips I typically recommend to my patients that you can follow to improve your slumber. Instead of tossing and turning, try a combination of these wellness tips on how to sleep better.
Turn off the electronics.
Light emitted from electronic devices such as TVs, tablets, e-readers and phones interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. It’s best to turn off all electronics at least one hour before calling it a night. If you find it difficult to stick to this electronic curfew, you can turn down the brightness on your devices, or use special glasses or a screen protector to filter out blue light, the wavelength that is most disruptive to sleep.
Keep a journal on your nightstand.
Nagging thoughts and worries like to creep in at night when you have time to think. To keep them from eating away at your rest, write down your concerns or tomorrow’s to-do list in a journal before calling it a night. You can revisit the list in the morning when you’re better rested and more mentally alert.
Adopt a wind-down ritual.
You shouldn’t expect to simply plop into bed and drift into dreamland. Instead, spend a little time prepping your body for restful slumber. You can meditate, do some light stretches or yoga, read a book (not on an electronic device) or take a warm bath.
Stick to a consistent sleep-wake schedule.
Sleeping in on weekends or taking a nap throws off your body’s internal sleep clock. This means you’ll have a harder time falling asleep at night. Try to get up within an hour of your usual wake-up time every day.
Make your room a peaceful place.
To rest comfortably, you need to be comfortable. This means keeping your bedroom temperature between 65 and 72 degrees, replacing your mattress if you wake up feeling achy or the bed feels too soft or firm, and swapping out your pillows at least once a year with ones designed specifically for your preferred sleep position. For instance, choose a thicker pillow if you’re a side sleeper, a flatter one if you like to sleep on your stomach.
Be physically active every day and earlier in the day.
People who exercise every day tend to sleep more soundly, but the time of day that you work out does matter. Cooler body temperatures invite slumber. Since your body needs about three hours to cool off after exercise, make sure you give yourself plenty of time between when you exercise and when you turn out the lights.
Make some lifestyle modifications.
Don’t eat big, heavy meals late at night, and avoid spicy or acidic foods that can cause heartburn, which may interfere with sleep. Other nighttime no-no’s include alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. The stimulant effects of these substances can rev you up and keep you from sleeping.
Talk to your doctor, or a Harken Health Center doctor or Health Coach if you are having problems falling or staying asleep. We can also provide members additional wellness tips, personalized sleeping tips, as well as the most relevant information on how to sleep better.
Hogai Nassery is the Chief Medical Officer at Harken Health in Atlanta and is an experienced primary care physician with nearly 20 years of family medicine experience in both patient care and academic settings.