A good night’s sleep helps us recharge, leaving us feeling refreshed and ready to face the next day. Even more important, say sleep experts, regular sleep can lead to a better overall quality of life. In fact, long-term sleep deprivation can make us less safe, less happy, and even less healthy. But if you struggle with sleep, you’re not alone - some 58 percent of American adults complain of insomnia, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Where to start for better sleep? Aim for between seven and nine hours each night, and try these tips to help make those hours as restful as can be.2012-03-12
Adjust to time changes more quickly. Daylight-saving time is notorious for throwing off people’s sleep schedules. So is changing time zones when you travel.
Try this: For four days before changing the clocks this spring, head to bed 15 minutes earlier each night. When your alarm sounds, seek some bright light - real or artificial. Bright light can help your biological clock recognize that it’s time to wake up.
Dim all of the lights at night. Any light - especially in shades of blue - can disrupt sleep. Try this: Block all light from computer screens, cell phones, and digital clocks by covering them or turning them around. And you might consider taking the TV and computer completely out of the bedroom. Electronics used for potentially stressful or stimulating activities - such as paying bills, checking e-mail, and watching TV dramas - may wreck your nighttime oasis.
Count down to sleep. For some people, little things like a late exercise session or a cup of caffeinated coffee with dinner can make it harder for the body to shut down at night.
Try this: If you think you’re sensitive, avoid caffeine within eight hours of bedtime, since that’s how long this stimulant can remain in your system. Also, avoid intense exercise within three hours of bedtime. In the hour before you go to bed, indulge in a soothing ritual, such as reflecting on the good parts of your day, reading a relaxing book, or indulging in a warm bath or shower.
Enjoy the right kind of bedtime snack. Going to bed on a full stomach can make it difficult for you to drift off, while eating too little may cause hunger pangs to disrupt your sleep in the middle of the night.
Try this: About an hour before bed, enjoy a bedtime snack that combines carbohydrates and either calcium or a protein that contains the amino acid tryptophan - studies show that both of these combos boost serotonin, a naturally occurring brain chemical that helps you feel calm. Good choices: a piece of bread with a slice of low-fat cheese or turkey, a banana with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter, whole grain cereal and fat-free milk, or fruit and low-fat yogurt.
Control the climate. During the night, body temperature naturally drops, which may be why most people sleep better in a bedroom that is slightly cool - around 68 to 72 degrees F.
Try this: Experiment with the thermostat until you find a nighttime temperature at which you don’t wake up shivering or perspiring. And beyond the thermostat, pay attention to your blankets and sleepwear. While it might seem counterintuitive to staying cool, studies show people sleep better in socks. How it works: The instant warm-up widens blood vessels in your feet, allowing your body to transfer heat from its core to the extremities, cooling you slightly, which induces sleep. An old-fashioned sleep cap would work just as well but might get you some strange looks.