10 Habits for Better Sleep
From our friends at Mercy Health
Regular sex, good eating habits lead to better ZZZs.
When you’re tossing and turning at 3 a.m., it feels like you’re never going to get to sleep. But what if we told you adjusting some of your habits could help? You have more control over your ZZZs than you think.
TRACK YOUR SLEEP
The same way tracking your daily food intake can help you achieve your weight loss goals, keeping track of your sleep habits may help you get better ZZZs.
Many sleep experts recommend their patients keep a diary of both their sleep patterns and the lifestyle habits that affect sleep. Some of the most important things to keep track of include hours slept, any sleep disturbances that caused you to wake up in the night, how you felt the next day (tired? energized?), how much caffeine or alcohol you consumed, the medications you took and any exercise you performed.
When journaling your sleep habits, record all of the details when you wake up. Being specific will help you and your health care provider notice patterns and come up with a treatment plan. You may even start to notice problem areas on your own, and the ways in which you can improve. Bring your sleep journal to both general practitioner appointments and appointments with specialists—it’s best for all of your doctors to be aware of your sleep patterns.
BREAK A SWEAT
Getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week can help you feel more alert throughout the day, and can also help you sleep better at night. One study, published in Mental Health and Physical Activity, found that men and women ages 18 to 85 who got 150 minutes of either moderate or vigorous activity per week improved the quality of their sleep by 65 percent. And according to a National Sleep Foundation poll, vigorous exercisers are almost twice as likely as non-exercisers to report they had a good night of sleep.
To sleep soundly, shoot for exercise three to five days a week, and avoid intense exercise at least two hours before bed.
STICK TO A SLEEP SCHEDULE
Waking up and going to sleep at the same time every night—yes, even on weekends—is key to getting good-quality sleep. “If you get up at 5 a.m. for work on the weekdays, you should try not to sleep in too much later than that on the weekends,” says Dr. Morgan.
Sticking to a schedule helps regulate your body clock, so you can fall asleep at a certain time—and stay asleep once you do hit the hay.
EAT REGULAR MEALS THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Just like a sleep and wake schedule can help you get more slumber, eating regular meals throughout the day can, too. Morgan recommends eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at about the same times every day so your digestive system gets used to processing foods then.
LIMIT CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL
That morning cup of coffee can block chemicals causing sleepiness and increase adrenaline production. So, while an a.m. pick-me-up is okay, downing lots of soda or coffee throughout the day is going to cause sleep trouble later on.
Even though caffeine doesn’t affect everyone the same way, it’s still a stimulant that can prevent your brain from achieving deeper levels of sleep, says Morgan. So try and nix caffeine six to eight hours before bedtime. Watch out for things like tea and chocolate—they contain low amounts of cafeinne, too. Try limiting your daily caffeine intake to about three 8-ounce cups of coffee.
And while it may seem like alcohol helps you fall into a deep sleep—and it will for a few hours because it’s a depressant—but for the second half of the night, you’re probably going to toss and turn. “When the alcohol wears off, you have a mini withdrawal syndrome, and your brain gets overstimulated, causing you to have disrupted sleep the second half of the night and wake up before you’re rested,” says Morgan.
It’s okay to drink in moderation, but make sure you stick to one or two beverages, and enjoy them earlier in the evening.
LIMIT MID-DAY SNOOZES
Long naps can disrupt your sleep later. Power napping for no longer than 30 minutes can increase your alertness, put you in a better mood and may not interfere with your nighttime sleep patterns.
If you are going to power nap, set your alarm for 15 to 30 minutes. And be sure your room is cool and dark so you can fall asleep more easily. The best hours to nap are between 1 and 3 p.m., since that tends to be when your blood sugar and energy levels plummet.
TURN OFF THE TECHNOLOGY
Some technology may be good for your health, but overdoing it before bed can keep you awake. Plus, the bright lights from TVs, tablets and phones are thought to suppress melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep and wake cycle.
It’s normal to want to wind down at night with Instagram or your favorite TV show. Just be sure you set aside all gadgets at least an hour before bedtime, or keep electronics out of the bedroom so you’re not tempted—and yes, that means your TV, too.
MAKE SURE YOUR BEDROOM IS JUST FOR SLEEPING—AND SEX
If you’re hanging out in your bedroom for reasons other than sleeping and having sex, you should reconsider.
“It’s important to distinguish your bedroom as a place to sleep, otherwise it’s hard for your body to realize the signals,” says Morgan. A lot of people with insomnia or other sleeping problems are so used to being awake in bed, that their brain can’t relax there anymore, he adds.
EXPERIMENT WITH RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
You’re going to fall asleep faster—and get better sleep—if both your mind and body are at ease. Mindfulness activities help you focus on images and stories rather than worries and other thoughts that keep you up at night. And you can actually teach yourself a lot of these practices using YouTube or other websites, says Morgan.
Having sex releases all kinds of beneficial hormones. It lowers your levels of the stress hormone cortisol and releases hormones like oxytocin, making you feel more connected to your significant other. And, ladies listen up—reaching orgasm encourages the release of the hormone prolactin, which helps you relax and get into sleep mode. If that’s not enough, sex also increases your estrogen levels, which can send you into deep sleep, too.
If you’re having trouble finding the time for sex, schedule it on your calendar. And if you’re lying in bed and your head is spinning with thoughts from the day, try initiating sex with your partner instead of dwelling on those thoughts.