how to get a good night\'s sleep

Despite the scores of devices meant to save us time these days, many health studies indicate that we feel more pressed for time than ever before.  For a lot of us, having too many things to do during the day means that we shave hours off of our sleeping time to accomplish everything.  Doing this too often can actually make it harder to sleep when we want to, in addition to making us tired and grumpy all day.

For other people, a lack of sleep is not a matter of choice.  As many as 60 million Americans may suffer from chronic insomnia, meaning that they regularly have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.  Whether your sleeping problems are self-inflicted because of a busy schedule or are the result of chronic insomnia, learning to get a better night’s sleep can make a big difference in how you feel during the day.  Here are a few simple ways to improve your sleep - starting tonight.

1. Avoid your vices. Avoiding caffeine before bed is kind of a no-brainer, but did you know that your caffeine consumption throughout the day can affect your sleep that night?  A jolt of caffeine in the morning can lead to a lack of energy in the afternoon, encouraging you to reach for a caffeinated soda.  The stimulating effects can last far into the evening and make it difficult to drift off.

Nicotine is another stimulant with effects that can keep you tossing and turning when you should be dreaming.  That last cigarette before bed contains enough stimulants to provoke a major sleep problem.  For your health and safety, of course, it’s best to quit altogether.  But until you can do that, simply skipping that before-bed smoke can seriously improve your sleep.

Alcohol is a tricky subject.  Drinking does cause sleepiness, but it doesn’t actually help you sleep.  After the initial relaxation effect, the body goes into a kind of withdrawal, causing you to wake during the night.  To avoid this sleep disturbance, avoid alcohol for several hours prior to bedtime.

2. Speaking of bedtime…. We are creatures of habit.  Our bodies crave routines and schedules.  If you find yourself having trouble falling asleep, maybe it’s time to take a good look at when you are trying to drift off.  If bedtime is at the same time each night, your body knows when to start winding down and getting ready to rest.  If you keep it guessing, you may find yourself becoming over-tired in the evening or unable to calm your mind when you get into bed.  Going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning will let your body develop a dependable schedule.

3. Exercise regularly. Besides being fond of schedules, our bodies are magnificent machines that function best when they are kept in tip-top shape.  You don’t have to be a professional athlete to reap the
benefits of regular exercise.  Moderate exercise provides every cell in your body with more essential oxygen, allowing it to function the way it is supposed to.  Exercise also causes you to become naturally tired, meaning that you will feel like sleeping when it is time to turn in for the night.

4. Make your bedroom your own personal retreat. The bedroom is a place to sleep and share intimate time with your partner.  It is not a place to work, eat, or watch television.  Allowing your sleep sanctuary to be used for regular daytime activities tends to make it more difficult to concentrate on sleep.

5. Use only natural sleep aids. Over-the-counter sleep aids may seem like the perfect solution when you’re having trouble sleeping, but they can actually make it harder to fall asleep on your own in the long run.  Rely instead on non-medicinal methods to help you get some Zs.  Massage and soothing music are great ways to let go of any lingering tension that might be keeping you awake.  The endorphins released after sex or masturbation promote a sense of well-being and peace, making it simple to drift off.  A warm bath, meditation, or some caffeine-free herbal tea are other methods that just may help you get a good night’s sleep - no sheep counting required.

6. Nix the midnight snacks. Unless you’re being kept awake by a growling tummy, eating just before bed will most likely rob you of sleep.  Your body doesn’t have time to digest meals that you eat right before sleeping, so those late-night noshes may even lead to an upset stomach later.

7. Avoid TV and computer screens for an hour before bedtime. Even if the rest of your house is dark, the light from a television or computer screen can convince your body that it’s still waking time.  Dim the lights, shut off the laptop, and read by a low-wattage lamp for a while before bed to ready your body for sleep.

8. Don’t force it. If you are lying in bed for more than 30 minutes and sleep feels miles away, don’t stay there and let the stress of insomnia build up.  Simply get up and read, do some light stretches, make some herbal tea, or listen to some soft music.  If a racing mind is keeping you awake, writing in a journal may help you to release those things that are weighing heavily on your consciousness.  With any luck, your eyes will soon become heavy and you’ll find yourself wandering toward bed for a restful night of sleep.