January 13, 2017
MILLIONS OF AMERICANS suffer from sleep deprivation and insomnia so it should come as no surprise that finding ways to cope with sleep issues, and establish healthy sleep habits is top of mind for many people.
Rather than resort to drugs or medical interventions, some people prefer to try natural solutions first, like making lifestyle changes or changes to the bedroom. There are many natural steps you can take first.
Turn your bedroom into a sleep oasis. Dim lighting promotes the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep patterns. A quiet sleep environment helps you maintain quality sleep throughout the night.
There are several ways to make sure your room is dark enough for quality sleep. Try room darkening curtains or blackout curtains to eliminate light from external sources, such as a streetlight or headlights.
Don’t sleep with the TV on – the flickering light can disrupt your sleep without you even realizing it. Avoid staring at your phone or computer screen just before bedtime. Blue light, a particular wavelength that emanates from most devices, tells the brain to stay awake.
If your partner or roommate won’t cooperate with your room-dimming mission, try a sleep mask. These soft cloth masks, which cover the eyes and block out all light, are available at many bedding and specialty stores.
Most people sleep best in a quiet environment. Heavy curtains can also help muffle outside sounds, while white noise can drown out other disruptions. White noise is a type of sound that contains a mix of frequencies (as opposed to, say, one long note) at a consistent intensity and volume. You can buy special white noise machines that play a variety of tracks like the sound of rain, or you can make your own white noise with a box fan or other low-volume motorized machine.
If your partner snores or you have loud roommates, you can try ear plugs.
Mattress and Bedding
A high-quality mattress and comfortable bedding are smart expenditures. Considering that you spend about one-third of your life in bed, it makes sense to spend some money on enhancing comfort.
A 2011 survey found that more than 90 percent of those polled say a comfortable mattress plays an important role in their personal sleep quality.
There are types of mattresses to suit every need. For example, mattresses that allow you to adjust firmness are great for couples with different bed preferences. Some people find relief from problems like snoring and sleep apnea by slightly elevating the head of the mattress. This can be accomplished with a special wedge pillow, an adjustable power base that raises the head, or by simply placing pillows or books under the mattress to elevate it.
People who exercise for at least 150 minutes per week have better sleep quality and efficiency than those who don’t, a recent study finds. Something as simple as a brisk walk 20 minutes a day can make a big difference in your sleep hygiene.
Beverages that contain caffeine, such as coffee, energy drinks and soda, can cause sleep problems for some people. If this seems to be an issue for you, cut back your caffeine consumption to less than 400 mg per day and avoid consuming caffeine after about 3:00 in the afternoon. If you can’t get rid of your coffee craving, you could always opt for decaf-alternatives.
Sugary foods and beverages speed up the heart rate and make it hard to relax enough to fall asleep. Limit sugar consumption, especially in the evening.
If you find that lifestyle changes don’t help, consult a doctor to rule out an underlying medical condition that may be causing your sleep problems.