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Checklist for Better Sleep: 10 Things You Can Do Tonight

30 Jul

The quality of your sleep affects your day in profound ways—it can inspire or sap creativity, flexibility, energy and mood. It can also make us feel as if we can take on the world or are unable to perform the simplest tasks. If you’re having a “down” day, there’s a good chance you didn’t sleep well the night before. Some things can’t be controlled, which is even more reason to control the things you can. These 10 tips are considered basic sleep hygiene, an odd term defined as “habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis.” Are you practicing these sleep basics?

  1. Be consistent. Try to go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day, including weekends and vacations. Aim for seven-plus hours. If you’re still lying there after 20 minutes, get up. Worrying about not sleeping can trigger a vicious cycle.
  2. Control your environment. Quiet and darkness are critical for sound sleep. Use blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, fans, white noise or whatever works to control external stimuli. Keep the room at a comfortable 65 degrees. Sound chilly? Read about the science of sleep temperature.
  3. Power down. Turn off electronic devices a half-hour before bedtime. Artificial blue light affects your circadian rhythms and suppresses the release of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. Likewise, avoid exposure to any bright light before bedtime.
  4. Watch what you consume. Food, caffeine and alcohol late at night all can wreak havoc on sleep. Avoid heavy meals at night or eating within two hours of bedtime. When your stomach is rumbling, though, a light, healthy snack may help you fall asleep.
  5. Develop a bedtime routine. A warm bath, gentle yoga, soft music, a calming book or a cup of herbal tea are all practices that tell your body it’s time to shut down for the night.
  6. Exercise. Moderate daily physical activity has been shown to increase deep sleep, which promotes the rejuvenation of brains and bodies. Timing is everything: Exercising late at night elevates body temperature and raises endorphin levels, which may be counterproductive.
  7. Sleep on a good mattress. Old (more than 8–10 years) or poor-quality mattresses that are not adequately supportive or large enough (especially if you share a bed) will interfere with ideal sleep. If it is time to replace your mattress, consider this purchase an investment in good sleep. If the price of the mattress seems too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid chemicals of concern and improve indoor air quality by choosing a mattress made with CertiPUR-US® certified foam, which meets strict standards for content and emissions.
  8. Limit Naps. Daytime naps close to bedtime or longer than 30 minutes can interfere with nighttime sleep.
  9. Don’t bring anxieties to bed. If worries plague you at bedtime, set a time to write down concerns and work out possible solutions. Make to-do lists throughout the day and put them away at night. Meditation or mind games that distract you from troublesome thoughts can really help. Try reciting the alphabet backwards, thinking of historical figures, dog breeds (or anything else) that begin with the letters A, B, C. etc. successively, or counting backwards from 300 by sevens.
  10. Know when to see a doctor. Chronic insomnia, frequent nighttime awakening, snoring and falling asleep during the day can be signs of a serious sleep disorder. Seek the help of a medical professional that specializes in sleep

Stress, Pain and Money — Oh My!

4 Oct

Better Sleep Council research uncovers the factors that keep people awake and help them nod off

Sleep is a wonderful, revitalizing and sometimes elusive thing. What makes it easy for some people to snooze and difficult for others?

The Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, has identified several factors that impact sleep in its research survey, The State of America’s Sleep. The first report from the data revealed the best and worst sleepers in America. (Recap: Young women, in particular students and mothers, have the hardest time getting adequate rest. Male retirees, on the other hand, tend to report getting the most sleep. Find the story online at SleepSavvyMagazine.com, click on Snooze News and select Better Sleep Council.

The second report digs into the factors that affect sleep. So, what’s keeping Americans awake? Four elements — stress, physical pain, personal finances and social isolation/loneliness — are the largest contributors.

General stress seems to be the leading cause of sleeplessness. According to the survey, people who rated their sleep as poor were nearly four times more likely to have been stressed in the two weeks prior to the survey. Women, in particular, seem to be more affected by stress than men. Among women who rated their sleep as poor, 33% had felt stress very often in the two weeks prior to the survey versus 20% of men.

Physical pain is a high second. People who rated their sleep as poor were two times more likely to have experienced pain when sitting and standing and were 2.5 times more likely to have experienced pain when lying down than those who said their sleep was excellent.

In the realm of personal finances, those who said they weren’t sleeping well were 1.4 times more likely to live paycheck to paycheck than the champion sleepers. They also were 1.3 times more likely to be concerned about their own financial future. Again, women’s sleep was more likely to be affected by financial worries — 41% of women said they live paycheck to paycheck versus 27% of men.

An area that isn’t discussed as often when it comes to poor sleep is loneliness. According to the study, social isolation is a factor that leads to sleepless nights. Those who frequently wake up feeling tired in the morning are two times more likely to have difficulty in social situations and are 1.5 times more likely to report wanting to go out but not having anyone to go out with them.

While some circumstances hinder sleep, other factors, such as good finances and meaningful relationships, make it far easier to rest, the survey found.

Those who save for retirement or unforeseen medical expenses are two times more likely to rate their sleep as excellent. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, those who reported having enough money in the bank to buy whatever they want were 1.5 times more likely to be good sleepers.

And while having good relationships with family members is helpful, those who reported having deep friendships outside of family were 1.2 times more likely to have better rest.

“The State of America’s Sleep research is giving us an in-depth look on how Americans are really sleeping, which is unlike any survey or research project we’ve implemented in the past,” said Mary Helen Rogers, vice president of marketing and communications for the BSC. “By digging into this research and finding the particular pain points that impact America’s sleep for the worse, we can reinforce how a proper sleep environment can really improve people’s quality of sleep and, ultimately, give them the tools they need to change their sleep habits.”