Doctor-Recommended Tips For a Better Night’s Sleep

Sleep plays a critical role in your overall health, from improving brain function to warding off disease. The ideal amount of sleep differs from person to person; however, the National Sleep Foundation recommends the average adult receive seven to nine hours of sleep per night for optimum health, performance, and safety.

For many adults, however, quality sleep is hard to achieve due to a variety of internal and external factors, from insomnia and certain medications to stress, lifestyle choices, lack of time, and distractions due to electronic gadgets. Maximize your chances of getting a quality night’s sleep by following these doctor-recommended tips:

Get into a bedtime routine: According to the Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, incorporating relaxing pre-bedtime activities, such as taking a bath, reading a book, or listening to soft music, signal to your body that you are preparing for sleep.

Create a consistent sleep schedule: Going to bed and waking up near the same time every day, even on the weekends, helps to regulate your body’s internal clock, according to the National Sleep Foundation. This may help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night.

Lower the thermostat: Scientists from the National Sleep Foundation have found that the ideal temperature for optimal sleep is between 60 degrees and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Warmer or colder temperatures than this may disrupt sleep patterns and lead to restlessness and frequently waking up.

Create a comfortable bedroom: Create a bedroom that encourages deep sleep by investing in a comfortable mattress, pillow, and bedding. According to Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, eye masks or room-darkening curtains and shades will help create a dark, cave-like atmosphere that is more conducive to sleep. If necessary, consider purchasing other sleep aids, such as a white noise machine or a fan to create a gentle hum and reduce distraction from outside noise. In addition, keep light and noise from electronic gadgets, such as smartphones and tablets, to a minimum before bed.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed: The effects of caffeine are typically felt for four to six hours after ingestion. Therefore, you should avoid drinking coffee, tea, soda, or other caffeinated beverages too late in the evening to boost your chances of a good night’s sleep. In addition, although alcoholic drinks and “night caps” may help you fall asleep more quickly, they typically lead to restless and shallow sleep, according to Medscape.

Limit food intake: Similar to caffeine and alcohol, limiting large meals or very spicy foods will reduce your chances of indigestion and heart burn, leading to a calmer, deeper sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Exercise early: Regular exercise promotes better sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, morning or afternoon exercise routines are preferable to evening workouts, as your body may be too stimulated to go into rest mode.

Nap right: Some people require daily or occasional naps to feel focused and energized. The Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine notes that if you must nap during the day, keep the nap short and early in the day. Long or evening naps may disrupt your normal sleep schedule.

Reduce stress: Worries keep many people awake at night. In order to sleep more soundly, the Mayo Clinic advises reducing stress in your daily life. The National Sleep Foundation also suggests limiting stressful or emotional conversations or activities before bedtime.

Increase exposure to natural light: According to the National Sleep Foundation, not getting enough natural light during the day may affect one’s internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, disrupting the natural sleep cycle. For those who spend most of their time indoors, try to venture outside for short breaks during the day or work near a window.

Know when to seek professional help: Everyone has experienced periods of sleeplessness. However, if you regularly have trouble sleeping, you may wish to seek a doctor specializing in sleep medicine, particularly as insufficient sleep can lead to chronic health problems and reduce your quality of life. According to Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, sleep specialists not only can diagnose a sleep disorder, but may prescribe medication or therapies that are right for you.

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