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According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of Americans struggle to sleep well. A body deprived of sufficient, quality sleep is more likely to have troubles with obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, lowered immunity, neurological problems, and an overall reduced quality of life.
There are many reasons we get poor sleep — a restless sleeping partner, pain, discomfort, stress, etc. – but there are ways to fight back. You can easily improve your quality of sleep with four simple tips:
Stimulants like caffeine should be avoided before bedtime for obvious reasons, but consider restricting caffeine to the morning hours or removing it from your routine altogether if you have severe difficulty falling asleep. Generally, it should be avoided for at least four to six hours before bedtime. Food and drink should not be consumed right before bedtime, either. Your body needs time to metabolize the fuel, so if you eat right before bedtime, your body will be busy metabolizing while your mind is trying to snooze.
Staying on a regular sleeping and waking schedule will help your body develop its “natural clock,” or circadian rhythm. This will make going to sleep on time and waking up refreshed easy and doable. Even if your routine changes day-to-day, try to keep your sleep schedule consistent. If you wake up at 7 a.m. on days you work, try to wake up at 7 a.m. on the days you don’t work (weekends, holidays, etc.). Your body will appreciate the consistency!
Dark, calm environments help us relax, so using a smartphone, tablet, computer or TV before sleep is ill-advised. Most of these electronics emit short-wavelength bluish light that can disrupt our bodies’ natural clocks by postponing our instinctual reactions to darkness and therefore the release of the hormone melatonin that helps us fall asleep.
Stress is the number one cause of short-term sleeping difficulties. Because studies show that exercise reduces stress, exercise is linked to better sleep. You shouldn’t exercise too close to bedtime, however, because exercise can also make you more alert and speed metabolism. Experts recommend exercising at least three hours before bedtime.
Talk to your doctor if irregular, poor sleep lasts more than a few weeks, as you may be one of the many Americans with an undiagnosed sleep disorder. If you do not have a primary care provider, visit our MercyCare Match page to learn about your available options.