Smart bedtime hacks to improve sleep

Everyone agrees that a good night’s sleep helps you heal, helps your body fight disease and helps your brain and body refresh itself each day.

The National Sleep Foundation advises most adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. But, if getting to sleep and staying asleep is a problem or you wake feeling less than refreshed, ask yourself these smart questions to improve sleep.

Do I stick to a sleep schedule?

Everyone has their own personal body clock, called the circadian rhythm, that tells them when to go to sleep and when to wake up every day. When you go to bed later than usual or you take a long nap during the day, you can throw off your personal schedule and have trouble falling asleep or wake up feeling not quite right. If you have no idea what your personal schedule is, try the SleepyTime app for Android devices or the Pillow app for Apple devices to help you determine your own optimal bed time and wake time.

Is sleep a priority? good night's sleep

Make sleep your priority by establishing a bedtime routine to signal your mind and body to slow down and relax for sleep. Make a point to turn off the TV and other bright lights at the same time every night (at least a half an hour before bed) and switch to less stimulating reading or journaling. A warm bath or shower before bedtime helps you feel sleepy because as you dry off, your body cools down, causing sleepiness according to the National Sleep Foundation. You can also dim the lights further and try a meditation or the Pzizz app for a different calming soundtrack every night. As soon as you feel your eyes drooping, turn out the lights.

Is my sleep interrupted during the night?

Interruptions to your body’s natural 90-minute sleep cycles can leave you feeling irritable and moody when you wake up, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Think about what is disturbing your sleep. Is it frequent bathroom trips? Try not to drink anything after dinner. Are pets or children taking up room in your bed, waking you up during the night? Now might be the time to move them to their own beds. Is it your partner’s snoring jolting you awake several times per night? You might need to use ear plugs, or your partner may need medication or nasal stips. Experiment with changing it up and seeing if you can improve sleep.

Are my beeping, buzzing, blinking devices keeping me awake?

Your smartphone and tablet stimulate your brain to pay attention instead of relaxing it for sleep and, if left on during the night, can interrupt your sleep. Shut these devices down at least 30 minutes before sleeping as part of your bedtime routine.

Could eating and drinking be causing my sleep problem?

Your digestive system is not designed to work overtime and digest foods while you’re sleeping. That’s why eating late at night throws your system off its schedule, making it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. The National Sleep Foundation advises eating your last meal as well as drinking alcohol or caffeine or using nicotine products a few hours before bedtime so their stimulating effects don’t keep you awake.

Am I exercising at the wrong time for me?

Your personal body clock plays a role in choosing the optimal time for your workouts, too, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If you’re an early bird, you benefit from early sunlight exposure and activity, which helps you wind down earlier and sleep more soundly. If you’re a night owl, you can stay up later by exercising in the late afternoon; the energizing effects keep you awake well after sunset.

Do I need to visit my doctor?

If you’ve tried these suggestions and still have sleep problems, bring it up to your doctor during your annual check-up. The culprit could be a medical condition that can be controlled, such as restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, mouth breathing, teeth-grinding, frequent nighttime urination (nocturia) and sleep-related acid reflux causing your sleep problems. Additionally, check your medications, over-the-counter drugs and even supplements for the side effect of sleeplessness.

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