For more than one in three Americans, getting a good night's sleep isn't as easy you might think. According to a recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation1, a combination of daily stress and lifestyle choices (including nighttime activities as well as eating and exercise habits) is causing more than a third of the U.S. population to get fewer hours of sleep than they need. Not surprisingly, the same proportion report that sleepiness has in some way affected their quality of life.
Many studies have focused on the time we devote (or don't devote) to sleep. However, a good night's sleep is about more than just quantity. It's also about quality. If you're sleeping poorly, experts point out that developing a sensible routine and avoiding certain behaviors around bedtime can improve your chances of falling asleep quickly and sleeping soundly through the night. Here are a few of their suggestions:
- Go to bed at the same time each evening and wake up at the same time each morning.
- Exercise regularly but avoid increasing your heart rate within two or three hours of bedtime.
- Eat dinner early enough in the evening so that digestion doesn't interfere with bedtime.
- Drink plenty or water but avoid drinking hot or cold liquids before or after bedtime.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine and other stimulants in your diet.
- Sleep on your back and/or your side. Don't sleep on your stomach!
While finding more effective ways to manage stress and making adjustments to your lifestyle can take some time, there are several "little" things you can do right away that may improve the quantity and quality of sleep you get. These things focus on your sleeping environment itself:
- Make your room is as dark as possible at bedtime.
- Reduce background noise.
- Keep your bedroom at a cool, comfortable temperature.
- Sleep on an appropriate mattress.
- Choose the right pillow.