You’re not sleeping. Maybe your spouse, kids, or co-workers aren’t sleeping. A lack of good-quality sleep is affecting us as individuals, and as a culture. Without consistent, good-quality sleep, our bodies break down. The National Sleep Foundation encourages us to establish healthy sleep patterns. Although there may be many factors contributing to sleep problems, establishing some nighttime routines may improve your sleep. The NSF recommends these 10 nighttime rituals:1. “Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule including weekends.” Because our bodies have their own clocks, or “circadian cycles,” your body will have difficulty finding rest in a schedule that continually changes.2. “Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or hot tub and then reading a book or listening to soothing music.” Establish routines that are stress-relieving and soothing. Avoid work, paying bills, problem-solving, and other stimulating activities close to bedtime.3. “Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.” Your sleep environment must contain the conditions you need. Consider the aid of eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, and blackout curtains. If you travel often and have difficulty sleeping, you can recreate this environment with a little forethought.4. “Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.” The NSF suggests using a supportive mattress. The life expectancy of a mattress is 9-10 years, at best.5. “Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.” Keep work, computers, and television out of the sleeping environment. Strengthen the connection between bed and sleep. When you are not sleeping, don’t spend long periods of time in bed.6. “Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.” This good rule applies to many health benefits. Your metabolism and digestion, and your energy upon waking, are optimized by eating less in the evening.7. “Exercise regularly.” It is best to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime. If you are just beginning an exercise program, you may experience a temporary change in your sleep habits. However, within the first week, exercise will help you to sleep better and give you more daytime energy.8. “Avoid caffeine (such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate) close to bedtime.” Sugar can also be too stimulating. Since caffeine can stay in your system for up to 12 hours, it is best to avoid it within 6-8 hours of going to bed.9. “Avoid nicotine.” Nicotine from cigarettes and other tobacco products is a stimulant. Nicotine affects your sleep in other less direct ways, also. As one of the many health reasons to quit using nicotine, quitting may improve your sleep.10. “Avoid alcohol close to bedtime.” Alcohol disrupts sleep, causing awakenings and restlessness. Like some of the guidelines listed above, curbing your beverage intake late at night includes curbing alcohol consumption.Establishing routines can improve the amount and quality of sleep you get.This is the first of two articles raising awareness for National Sleep Awareness Week, which is March 27th through April. Nina Schnipper offers personal fitness training and massage therapy for stress and pain relief. Call Nina at 948-0179.
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