Although there are many things you can do to improve your health, probably none are more important than getting a good night’s sleep. According to a recent Harvard Medical School report, chronic sleep loss can lead to a multitude of health problems, including high blood pressure, immune system deficiencies and significant weight gain. On the other hand, improving your sleep habits can extend your life, improve your memory and reduce your chances of becoming depressed.
In order to achieve a better night’s sleep, though, you may find it necessary to change some of your daily routines that have the ability to affect your sleep. Here are six suggestions on how to accomplish that:
1. Maintain a Consistent Schedule
If you have ever worked the late shift or taken a plane ride that resulted in jet lag, you are probably well aware of how long the negative effects of a change in sleeping habits can linger on. For this reason, it is important to maintain a consistent schedule. Establish a time for going to bed and getting up, and do your best to stick to the schedule. Avoid sleeping late on weekends and holidays. Be patient in making these changes because new habits take a while to learn.
2. Avoid Naps
When a person is deprived of sleep, it is tempting to take a nap. Some people think that naps are healthy and may refer them as “power naps.” For most people, though, a nap interferes with nighttime sleep, especially if it is a long nap. If you are having trouble sleeping at night, it is probably best to avoid naps completely.
3. Sleep on a Comfortable Mattress
In order to gain a good night’s sleep, it is important to sleep on a comfortable mattress. Full size latex mattresses are ideal for this because they are known to help alleviate pressure points and align the spine. Additionally, they will last for many years before needing to be replaced.
4. Avoid Caffeine Late in the Day
Caffeine is a stimulant that can easily disrupt sleep. Additionally, consuming too much caffeine can negatively impact your health in other ways. In order to sleep better, you should avoid caffeine in the late afternoon. One study recommends a cutoff time of 2 p.m. Also, be aware that coffee is not the only food or drink that contains significant amounts of caffeine. Many energy drinks have high concentrations of caffeine. Jumbo sodas and other “super-sized” drinks should also be avoided late in the day. Consider drinking water instead.
5. Improve Your Sleeping Environment
Of all the things you can do to get a better night’s sleep, probably none are more important than improving your sleeping environment. The place you sleep should be a sanctuary where you can relax, unwind and leave your troubles behind. Spend some time inspecting your sleeping environment to see if you need to make any changes. For instance, is it too bright or too noisy? Does it have a pleasing smell? Is the humidity level comfortable? This last item is important because the amount of moisture in the air can affect your breathing while sleeping. Most people find the ideal moisture content to be between 25 and 50 percent. If you need to adjust the humidity level, you may want to purchase a humidifier or dehumidifier.
6. Establish a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
In order to gain a good night’s sleep, it is important to establish a relaxing bedtime ritual. While this will vary from person to person, most people find it beneficial to shut down all electronic devices two hours before bedtime. This includes computers, tablets and smart phones. Other routines that have proven beneficial for inducing sleep include a warm bath, relaxing music and a cup of caffeine-free tea.