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Home > Health & Wellness > Health Education > 4 Tips for a Better Night's Sleep
Published on May 28, 2014
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of Americans struggle to sleep at night. 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 that we get poor sleep — a restless sleeping partner, pain, discomfort, stress, etc. but there are many 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 four to six hours before bedtime at the least. Food and drink should be consumed a few hours before bedtime as well. 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/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 is thought to disrupt our bodies’ natural clock 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. Because of this, expects recommend exercising at least three hours before bedtime. Additionally, when body temperature rises during exercise, it can take as long as six hours to drop back to normal. Cooler body temperatures are associated with sleep onset, so it’s important to allow your body enough time to cool before attempting sleep.
With the wealth of information and treatment options available, the suffering, illnesses, accidents and reduced quality of life associated with bad sleep can be avoided. 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, please call MercyCare Find-a-Doc at (319) 369-4444 to learn about your available options.