- Rose Kennedy For the AJC
Because listening to the clock tick, dreading the alarm and suffering the mental and physical effects of sleep deprivation are all horrible, making good sleep a priority is a wonderful idea.
Besides counting sheep and laying off the caffeine late at night, there are ways to train your body to fall asleep faster or help you get back to sleep quicker.
Follow the following tips will help you say "good night" and mean it.
1. Schedule sleep hours. You should schedule sleep just like any other activity, according to the Mayo Clinic's blog. They recommend setting aside no more than eight hours for sleep each night, since the recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours and you should not require more than an eight-hour stretch to achieve it. Mayo Clinic staff also advise setting aside those hours at the same time every night of the week and limiting the schedule difference on weekends to just one hour later or earlier. Consistency helps your body establish a healthy sleep-wake schedule.
2. Say nope to long naps. While power naps can make you more alert and rested, long daytime naps can interrupt nighttime sleep or keep you from falling asleep at bedtime, according to Mayo Clinic staff. They advise naps of up to 30 minutes duration but no longer and discourage any napping late in the day. The one exception: people who work the night shift may require late-day naps before work to make up a sleep debt.
3. Snack on almonds. While heavy meals or super-spicy foods close to bedtime are commonly known to keep you awake, there are also snacks you can eat that will help you fall asleep faster. Eat light snacks in the evening and don't eat later than a half-hour before bed, recommends Alon Avidan, a professor of neurology and director of UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine Sleep Disorders Center, as reported on AARP's website. "That gives sufficient time for your body to digest the food and absorb the nutrients before you go to sleep," Avidan said.
He also recommended a specific before-bed snack: almonds, either a handful of the nuts or a tablespoon of almond butter.
The magnesium in almonds is a muscle-relaxing mineral that helps regulate sleep in a way that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.
4. Take a minute to breathe. "Just breathe" is always good advice when you're trying to calm down, but you might not have known it applies to sleep, too. The 4-7-8 breathing technique, championed by practitioner and teacher of integrative medicine Andrew Weill, and reported in Good Housekeeping UK, is simple and worth trying. It's free, quick and doesn't require equipment. Weill says 4-7-8 breathing acts like a natural tranquilizer and can help people fall asleep in 60 seconds.
- Before you begin, place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just above your teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth - quite forcefully so you make a "whoosh" sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly and softly through your nose for a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath and count to seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making another whoosh sound for eight seconds in one large breath.
- Inhale again and repeat the cycle three times for a total of four breaths.
5, If you wake, exit the bedroom. It doesn't feel good to wake up in the middle of the night and lie awake, fretting about undone tasks or slights you experienced the day before. According to the Mayo Clinic blog, when you wake up and can't get back to sleep, you should move to another area of the house instead of lingering in bed. Give yourself 20 minutes to fall back asleep first, then leave the bedroom to read something light or boring or listen to calming music. Go back to bed only after you feel tired again. And if you don't fall back asleep after another 20 minutes, repeat the drill as many times as needed.