You have been craving bedtime since just after lunch. You’ve been looking forward to crawling between your soft sheets and drifting off to sweet oblivion. As your head finally hits the pillow, you toss; then turn.
Then you turn and toss some more, realizing you are the 1 out of 3 adults not sleeping enough at night.
Consistent lack of sleep can lead to some pretty ugly diseases, from heart disease to diabetes. Here are some easy fixes to help send you off into dream land without having to count a million sheep.
Set your own curfew:
What’s the harm in watching a couple more episodes of Survivor before turning in for the night? Quite a bit, says research from Northwestern University in Chicago.
According to this sleep study, they found that going to sleep at a consistent time every night, keeps your circadian rhythm on track.
It also enables the heart to rest and rejuvenate. Staying up late at night could result in higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and cause major heart issues later in life.
So, unless you want to be on a real-life version of Survivor, TiVo those episodes and catch some shut-eye.
Let’s talk pillow talk:
Your bed setting can be a major reason why you aren’t getting the sleep you need. For example, to make sure you’re picking the right pillow, first decide the sleeping position in which you are most comfortable.
According to Andrew Weil M.D., back sleepers will want a thin pillow to keep your head from tilting too far forward and straining your neck.
Side sleeper pillows are supposed to be thick and firm to fit the space between your shoulder and ear and belly sleepers should look for a thin, flat pillow, or no pillow, to ensure the neck isn’t at an odd angle all night. Use this guide to decide on the right pillow.
Make your bedroom a retreat:
Whether or not we believe in the Feng Shui movement, most of us can probably get on board with not letting our bedrooms resemble a pig sty.
Nothing keeps us from avoiding our bedrooms like having to step over piles of clothes just to get to the bed.
In fact, an article from The Better Sleep Council claims that “the bedroom environment has a major impact on the quality and quantity of sleep,” listing factors such as light and smell as areas of improvement.
If you don’t have the budget for a full bedroom makeover, maybe just start with folding the clothes and putting them away.
Turn it off. Turn it ALL off:
In this fast-paced digital age, you are able to work from home, literally, until the moment your head hits the pillow. This can cause a huge disruption in sleep, the experts say.
The light from your phone, tablet or computer, makes your brain think it’s daytime. This interrupts the natural melatonin (sleep hormone) your body produces when the sun goes down in order for you to easily drift off to dream land.
So, Laurie Hallman, Ph.D., says a good rule of thumb is to turn off your electronic devices at least an hour before going to bed. If you’re super bored without your phone and you have to do something in that hour, maybe try the ancient art of reading a book.
Cultivate a green thumb:
A few strategically placed plants in your bedroom can do wonders for your quality of sleep. A study conducted by NASA found many health benefits by adding some greenery to your boudoir.
For flowering plants, the scent of Jasmine and Lavender lend to lowering anxiety levels and slowing heart rates, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. For greater air quality, plants such as the Snake Plant, Spider Plant and English Ivy all have been shown to remove toxins from the air while emitting oxygen.
Place these greens by an open window to purify the air as it comes in. It raises the oxygen levels in your room which aids in your quality of sleep. This list will tell you which plants fit your type of bedroom and your nurturing style (read: hard to kill).
Eat and drink your way to better sleep:
The food and drink you consume during the day can affect your ability to fall asleep at night. If you are a caffeine fiend who never goes without your after-lunch coffee jolt, you might find yourself staring at your bedroom ceiling, hours later, unable to drift off. In addition to caffeine, chocolate and alcohol are also hindrances to a satisfying REM cycle.
The best way to prepare your body for sleep, is to eat heavier meals during the day and eat lightly at night, at least 3 hours before bed. Also, avoid those fatty or spicy foods right before lights out.
Here is a list of foods to eat and avoid for quality rest.
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to your overall well-being.
Sleeping restfully every night can help you avoid heart and kidney diseases as well as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. The world around you holds enough stress during the day, you certainly don’t need to be adding to it at night.
Whether you upgrade your pillow, try your hand at gardening, or simply unplug your phone and set a consistent bedtime, you will be taking steps to better your sleep; and your health.
Alex Moore is a writer and side sleeper self-proclaimed expert for sidesleeperguide.com. The science of sleep and relaxation is something he became enthralled with ever since he went abroad and found himself a prisoner to insomnia. Hacking his sleep routine was a sure fix he’s now trying to replicate and master.
Alex’s Twitter: @Alex_Moore01