Working a full time job, raising children, or staying up to catch the late-night news can all affect sleep patterns. If you are a man over twenty-five, or someone of any gender or age, you should be concerned about getting enough sleep. Inadequate sleep can lead to heart disease, weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and fatigue later in the day, so follow these tips to ensure a better night’s rest.
Keep Track of your Sleep
Remember the magic number is eight hours. Estimate the approximate time you go to bed every night and the time you have to wake up in the morning. Then do the math — if you hit the hay at 1 A.M. and need to get up at 7 A.M. — you’re getting six hours of sleep. If the number is less than eight, you need to start going to bed earlier.
To see if you’re getting enough sleep already, use your phone or Fitbit. If you own an iPhone, use the app called “Clock” (no downloading required; it comes pre-installed). Select “Bedtime” from the option bar at the bottom to set a bedtime and wake time, as well as do a sleep analysis.
Fitbit offers an app that not only measures nutrition and activity, but sleep as well. This feature will help you determine when to go to sleep for a good eight hours of rest. Another feature about the Fitbit is that the bracelet can monitor any restless activity during sleep.
Keep careful track of your sleep for a week. Try this experiment: go to bed twenty minutes earlier than normal. Do this for two days, then tack on another twenty minutes, so you’ll go to bed forty minutes earlier than your original time. As you progress to an hour and beyond, write down the effects it has on your sleep and the following day.
Try Not to Nap
Naps sound tempting in the comforts of your own home or on vacation, but they will ultimately screw up your sleep schedule. Taking a nap during the day will make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Sometimes you may wake up from a nap even more tired and groggy than you were initially.
However, this tip plays both sides. Naps have a few benefits, and a short afternoon nap can make up for about an hour lost from last night’s sleep. Studies have suggested naps can improve brain functions such as memory, focus, and creativity.
The key to naps is to make them short. Try a power-nap, which provides the perfect amount rest to both give your body a break and sleep soundly that night. This short nap also restores mental alertness. To make sure this doesn’t turn into a two hour nap, set an alarm to go off after twenty to thirty minutes.
Don’t Exercise Before Bed
If you skipped the gym in the morning or had to run to work, the thought of squeezing in a routine before bed may cross your mind. Engaging in physical activity before bedtime sends the wrong message to your brain. After the rush of endorphins, you may feel wider awake and more alert. You’ll also want to shower after a strenuous workout, which pushes back bedtime.
If you want to accomplish a vigorous workout, do it at least three hours before bedtime. The best option is light stretching, which will improve circulation and relieve stress. Yoga is another good, non-impact option to put your joints and mind at ease before resting.
Don’t Eat a Big Meal before Bed
Everyone has had nights where they skipped dinner due to work or prior engagements. Maybe the last few slices of pizza in the fridge are calling your name at midnight. However you should try to tune out late night cravings when bedtime approaches.
Eating before bedtime won’t give your body enough time to digest, causing indigestion, bloating, and an upset stomach. You are more likely to overeat as well, especially if you haven’t eaten in a long time. Extra calories beyond what you need may be stored as fat.
If your body is sincerely telling you to eat, out of physical hunger and not due to other reasons such as anxiety or boredom, opt for something small. Make sure you get some protein, which will both satiate you until breakfast and prevent binging. Some healthy suggestions are half a turkey sandwich, a handful of nuts, or a small cup of edamame.
Watching Jimmy Fallon or scrolling through Facebook in bed is tempting, but overall, it’s damaging. In the darkness, the brightness of your phone’s screen can be harmful to your eyes. Due to that bright light, your brain will get the signal that you should stay awake, delaying sleep further.
Fifteen minutes before hopping into bed, turn off all devices. This means shutting off your television, your phone, your laptop, and any other technology that can be distracting. Furthermore, placing your phone or laptop on the other side of the room will curb the temptation to reach over and turn it back on. Encourage your kids to do the same, which both holds you accountable and teaches them better sleep habits.
Mild pain during the night can disturb deep sleep. Putting a pillow between your legs to better align your hips can put less stress on your back. If you sleep on your back, tuck a pillow under your knees to prevent and ease pain. Avoid sleeping on your stomach because it can lead to neck pain.
Keep good posture in mind, before and while laying down. Make sure your pillow supports the natural curve of your neck and is neither too flat or poofy. Having your pet in bed can be comforting but they may serve as a distraction, as well as trigger allergies.
Sleep is just as important as nutrition and fitness when it comes to health. Getting the proper amount of sleep may cure some of your existing health problems. If you try these tips and you still have trouble getting shut-eye, see your doctor. You may have a more serious issue like insomnia or narcolepsy.