How to Get Better Sleep Tonight
Posted on January 21 2022
Do you have trouble sleeping? Maybe you wake up several times in the middle of the night, or wake up too early in the morning, unable to fall back to sleep again—or perhaps you normally sleep fine but live with a fitful sleeper who ends up disrupting your sleep? Even our pets, as much as we love them, can disrupt our sleep as they change position on the bed several times during the night.
Whether you think you’re a “good sleeper” or “bad sleeper”, the fact is that most of us are not getting enough restful sleep. If you or someone you know has trouble sleeping, then this blog post is for you.
Getting Better Sleep
Good sleep is part of the natural process that allows our bodies and minds to rest and rejuvenate before tackling the demands of the day. Unfortunately, the stress and pressures of modern life can affect our sleep in several negative ways. While the human body is “programmed” to function in a sleep cycle (followed by a period of wakefulness), external stressors can disrupt that pattern.
Prolonged stress and disruption of the sleep cycle can exacerbate other health problems which might even lead to chronic sleep disorders. Poor sleep habits can sometimes trigger a downward spiral of one’s overall health and be the cause behind more serious concerns.
We know that getting better sleep is important, but what exactly does it mean? Good sleep means falling asleep and staying asleep long enough to fill a complete sleep cycle. Allowing your body the time and space to rest properly is one of the first steps in getting better sleep. Far too many of us assume good sleep just “happens” without taking a proactive role in creating an optimal environment for sleep.
Taking responsibility for one’s own sleep habits is just the first step. Learning how and when your sleep is affected the most can help you address any problem areas. Appreciating that good and restful sleep occurs in multiple stages is critical in knowing which factors are disrupting your personal sleep cycle.
Why Better Sleep is Important
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that in order to maintain optimal health, the average adult should receive between seven to nine hours of sleep per night. However, that ideal is far from our reality, which is that one out of every three Americans is not getting enough sleep.
Restful sleep makes the mind vibrant and alert, while renewing and restoring the body. Quality sleep also helps strengthen and boost the immune system and is therefore a key component for overall vitality.
On the flip side, a lack of consistent, high-quality sleep can increase physical stress, spark weight gain, lower the sex drive, and decrease the body’s immune response. On the mental health side, poor sleep can affect cognition and over time, can lead to depression.
In short, getting a good night’s rest is a key ingredient to overall wellness. Working to improve sleep and sleep quality are fundamental ways to stay healthy.
What Causes Bad Sleep?
Getting better sleep starts with understanding how your body and mind work together, and which factors affect your sleep the most. Quality sleep is part of your body’s circadian rhythm, which is the natural process that responds to light and darkness over a 24-hour period. When working properly, your circadian rhythm regulates subtle changes (such as body temperature) which helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. Disruptions to this natural cycle are the leading cause of poor sleep.
For example, jet lag confuses the circadian rhythm by changing your internal clock. Thus, you may feel very sleepy during the daytime, or wide awake in the middle of the night. In a similar fashion, a sudden bright light can jar you awake and stimulate the mind, confusing your body’s waking response and making it even more difficult to fall back asleep.
In this time of technology, our favorite interactive devices (such as cell phones, televisions) can also cause regular disruption. The glaring blue light of digital devices is a major culprit in disrupting sleep. Nine out of ten Americans reach for a digital device within an hour of trying to go to sleep. Before going to sleep, it’s a good idea to turn off any kind of device, be it a tablet, computer, or your cell phone.
Some people suffer from more serious sleep disorders which can even become chronic. Falling asleep throughout the day, but remaining awake at night might be a sign of something more serious. Sleep apnea is one common sleep disorder in which the body’s breathing pattern is interrupted. This disrupted oxygen flow can jar you awake over and over again, meaning less sleep with reduced quality.
Even if you don’t suffer from a sleep disorder, basic problems like increased stress and busy schedules can affect your sleep quality. Thus, a basic sleep tip is to establish a healthy bedtime routine.
Improving your Bedtime Routine
Treating your bedtime like an important scheduled event can help you. Decreasing physical activities and mental stimulation close to bedtime allows the brain and body to calm down. Preparing to rest - and making time and space to rest- is key.
Discovering your personal bedtime routine - and sticking to it - can help you get better sleep. Turning off any bright lights, as well as music or television, sends a clear signal to the mind and body that sleep time is approaching. Maintaining a consistent and comfortable temperature in your bedroom can also help. Meditating before bedtime can also help clear and calm the mind.
Tips for Better Sleep
- Make good sleep a priority: Your body will thank you, and your mental health will improve.
- Follow a sleep schedule: Plan for sleep. Mark out enough time in your schedule to get a full night’s sleep.
- Build your bedtime routine: Good sleep starts an hour before bedtime. Prepare for a good night’s sleep by disengaging from devices.
- Use a sleep aid: If you feel a sleep aid might help, find one that helps you get long and restful sleep. Natural, plant-based sleep aids without side effects are optimal.
- Exercise: Physical exercise during the day helps maintain your circadian rhythm, leading to better sleep at night.
Get Better Sleep Tonight
If you or someone you know suffers from poor sleep, do not give up hope. Working to improve your sleep quality is important as it can affect your entire physical and mental well-being. Many common health problems can be reduced by focusing on building and maintaining better sleep. Finding a way to calm the mind and body, and setting aside the time and space for rest, can help you get better sleep tonight.
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