How to Get a Better Night's Sleep
Tossing and turning at night? You may be sabotaging your sleep cycle and not even know it. Learn what little changes will help you to clock the hours you need every night and wake up feeling refreshed every morning.
Skip Alcohol in the Evening
Your body has to work hard to digest alcohol, so you’re likely to wake up more often in the night—interfering with the deep, restorative stages of sleep your body needs to undo everyday damages. If you want to enjoy a glass of wine, have it with dinner or at least two hours before going to bed. Stop at one drink, so it will wear off by the time you lie down.
Check Your Medications
Numerous medications can disrupt sleep, including cold and allergy medicines. Review which ones you are taking and talk to your doctor to find out if the medications you take could be disrupting your sleep. Sometimes it may even be as simple as changing your dosing schedule.
Hit the Gym In the Morning
Working out too close to bedtime can be detrimental to your sleep cycle—your body temperature goes up, then doesn’t fall until about six hours later. Aim to work out at least four hours before bedtime. A mid-afternoon stroll can reduce stress, promote blood flow and oxygen all over your body and help you sleep through the night. Don't belong to a gym?
Make a Sleep Schedule
With a set schedule, the release of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, peaks at the same time every night, making it easier for you to fall asleep and sleep soundly. Don’t vary your routine by more than an hour on weekends or you may throw your circadian rhythms out of whack. Some people also find it helpful to keep a journal if you tend to ruminate in bed. You don't have to write down deep thoughts; spending even 5 to 10 minutes jotting down whatever is on your mind — stray to-dos, reminders — can help your brain deal with information overload.
It’s not always obvious which foods and drinks contain caffeine. Read the product labels and avoid consuming caffeine after noon (once it’s in your body, it takes about six hours to eliminate just half of it).
Dim the Lights
Bright lights can delay the release of melatonin. Turn down the lights half an hour before bedtime. Put a nightlight in the bathroom and a dimmer switch in your kitchen, if you use the bathroom or get a drink during the night. Use blackout shades to block outside light.
Pass on Spicy Foods
Skip spicy foods if they give you heartburn; stomach-burning discomfort can keep you tossing and turning until morning. Try eating food that contains tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey, chicken, cheese, eggs and nuts.
Keep Pets Out of the Bedroom
As much as you love them, your pets' noises and movements can wake you up slightly without you realizing it. Keep pets out of the bedroom or at least off the bed. Run a fan or a white-noise machine to muffle their night sounds.
Shifts in estrogen and progesterone during the premenstrual phase, pregnancy and perimenopause can alter the time you spend in the deeper stages of sleep. Talk to your doctor about different solutions such as low-dose birth control pills, hormone therapy or even something as simple as exercise to help regulate your hormones.
Night-Proof Your Partner
If your sleep mate’s tossing wakes you, place a large pillow between you or try a movement-absorbing foam mattress. If snoring is the problem, use earplugs or a fan to drown out the racket. Have him see a sleep specialist to treat (or rule out) apnea or restless leg syndrome.
Allow Time to Unwind
Hearing upsetting news (on the TV or radio), having difficult conversations, paying bills or checking e-mails before bed can hype you up. Instead, make a point of doing something relaxing, such as taking a warm shower or bath (afterward you experience a drop in body temperature that mimics the one you undergo during the early stages of sleep, making your drowsy) listening to soothing music, doing yoga or meditating, or reading a book.
Don't Hit the Snooze Button
By waking up and going back to sleep several times, you’re missing out on the opportunity to activate neurons that make you feel alert. Move your clock away from your bed so you’re forced to rise when it goes off—and then stay up.