Getting a good night’s sleep not only helps you feel refreshed and ready to take on the day, but it’s vital to maintaining good physical and mental health. Last year, NBC News reported a study performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that suggests over a third of Americans do not get enough sleep. Adults who sleep less than the recommended seven to nine hours per night are at an increased risk for high blood pressure, stroke, coronary heart disease, obesity, and mental health concerns. And if those risk factors aren’t alarming enough, the CDC cites the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s estimate that 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths were caused by drowsy drivers in 2013.
If you’re facing a nightly struggle to sleep, it’s time to assess your sleep habits and explore ways to find more restful slumber. The suggestions below are a starting point to help you discover the best ways to unwind and catch some z’s.
Unplug: While useful and entertaining, your cell phone, tablet, and television won’t help you fall asleep. These activities actually provide stimulation, rather than relaxation. Read a book or watch your favorite show in a different room before you begin your bedtime routine. Block disruptive noises, like email and text alerts, by lowering the volume on your phone before bed.
Exercise: Physical activity is an excellent way to promote continuous nighttime sleep. Just be sure to fit your workout in before 2 pm to avoid counterproductive effects. Strenuous activity within the hours before bedtime can increase endorphins in the body, often making it difficult to fall asleep. An active lifestyle also helps to promote a healthy weight and reduces the risk of sleep apnea, a disorder that impacts breathing during sleep.
Start a Sleep Routine: Maintaining a regular sleep routine, including a standard bedtime and wake-up time, will help make initiating sleep easier and will reduce periods of interrupted sleep. A warm bath or meditation before bedtime will promote relaxation in preparation for sleep. Ensuring your bedroom is comfortable and free of distractions can also support a rejuvenating sleep. Keep your room dark and noise-free, and set the thermostat to a cool and comfortable temperature. Even if you love sleeping with your pets, it might be beneficial to provide them with their own dog or cat bed in a different living space, if they disturb you at night.
Limit Caffeine: If you drink caffeinated beverages, the American Sleep Association (ASA) suggests consuming them before noon, as they can cause fragmented sleep overnight. Coffee, soda, tea, and energy drinks can all contain caffeine. Nicotine, alcohol, and prescription medications can also reduce your ability to sleep well. Talk with your family physician about how best to schedule your prescription dosage to maximize its effects and your nighttime sleep.
Whether it’s counting sheep or drinking a warm glass of milk before bed, finding a good sleep routine can increase your health and well-being. Please contact SCPT if you have any questions, and we’d be happy to provide you with additional sleep suggestions.