The workaholics among us would love to add useful hours to the day, but without adequate rest our health will suffer – and being sick takes considerable time indeed.
Lowered immunity to illness and stress, increased irritability, clouded thinking, slowed reaction time and physical weakness are just some of the negative effects of sleep deprivation. We make more mistakes, become forgetful and are more likely to react with our emotions instead of our heads. Even mild sleep loss can take a serious toll. More than 100 million Americans regularly fail to get a good night’s sleep, according to a report by the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) in Rochester, Minn. If counting sheep doesn’t help, try these 10 easy bedtime tips.
TEN STEPS TO A DEEP SLEEP
1. Don’t eat a heavy meal or drink too much (of anything) late in the day. Your body will have to stay awake to properly digest the food, and trips to the bathroom will interrupt whatever sleep you do get.
2. Cut back on caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. Avoid these stimulants – including soft drinks and chocolate – during and after dinner.
3. Follow a regular sleep schedule. Try to keep your internal sleep clock running on time, try to go to and get out of bed at the same hours every day, including weekends. Regular times for meals, chores and other activities also help you to establish patterns.
4. Develop a presleep ritual. Consider a warm bath, a small glass of warm milk (milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid with sedative effects) and a chapter of a relaxing book. Remember: The purpose is to wind down, so skip the suspense thrillers.
5. Don’t nap to catch up. The proper balance of mental and physical activity during waking hours will help you sleep better at night.
6. Make your bedroom a stress-free zone. Keep tension-filled tasks-like office work and required reading-out; keep the shades down and the television off.
7. Invest in a quality mattress and bedding. The benefits include both restful nights and more comfortable days.
8. Don’t force yourself to slumber. Go to bed when you’re tired and ready to fall asleep.
9. Exercise regularly. People with sleep disorders who participated in a moderate exercise program enjoyed better sleep quality, fell asleep faster and slept longer than those who didn’t exercise, according to a study in the The Journal of the American Medical Association. But don’t put off exercising until too late in the day. The AASM recommends a minimum of six hours between sleep and a vigorous workout.
10. Don’t lose sleep about how much sleep you need. The amount of sleep required varies so much from person to person and at different stages of life that putting a number on how many hours you should get could keep you tossing and turning all night long. One rule of thumb: If you find yourself yawning through the day, you need more.