30 Days to Better Sleep
If you’re tired of being tired, then this 30-day plan is for you. Take the time to examine your habits, reset your internal clock, and get the sleep you need by following the sound advice in this article.
Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. There it is again. The dreaded sound of your alarm clock. Every morning, it disrupts your slumber—that is, on the days you aren’t awakened by a crying baby, construction noise or roaring engines.
Regardless of what brings us out of dreamland, many of us aren’t getting the quantity or the quality of sleep we need. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends seven to nine hours of sleep nightly for adults, but a recent poll found that about two-thirds of us say our sleep needs are not being met during the week. This is a problem.
Sleep is restorative—physically and mentally. It’s vital to our survival. It’s as vital as water, air, and food. It’s something you can’t cheat without consequences.
WHY SLEEP MATTERS
People who are chronically sleep-deprived may see an impact on their metabolism and hormones. In fact, poor sleep habits have been connected with slowed glucose processing and weight gain.
While not a guarantee of disease, lack of sleep does put you at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It also increases your risk for accidents and makes it hard to concentrate on work and other tasks.
Several nights of sleep deprivation is comparable to a blood alcohol level of 0.08. That’s how impairing it can be to your judgment and reflexes.
If you’re tired of feeling tired, our 30-day plan is just what the doctor ordered.
LET’S GET STARTED.
1. Analyze your habits.
Start your one-month journey to better sleep by taking a close look at your current habits. What time do you go to sleep and wake up? How long does it take you to fall asleep?
2. Determine your obstacles.
What’s preventing you from getting the sleep you need? We live in a culture that always seems to be on. We don’t ever shut down. Our bodies are not made to do that. Identify distractions that might be interfering with your bedtime routine and prioritize accordingly.
3. Establish sleep as a priority.
You can’t continue to cheat your sleep without consequences—be they psychological or physiological. Make sure you’re ready to make the necessary changes.
4. Set a sleep schedule.
Experts say that going to bed and waking up at the same times every day improves the quality of your sleep. It doesn’t have to be to the minute. It can be a range—between 10 and 10:30 p.m., for example.
5. Create a bedtime routine.
An hour before bedtime, begin your routine. Start by turning off the TV and computer, then get ready for bed and do a quiet activity like reading or a puzzle—something you find relaxing.
6. Remove electronics from the bedroom.
Bedrooms are for sex and sleep. Don’t have a TV or a computer in your bedroom.
7. Lower the thermostat.
The ideal temperature for sleep is 68 to 74 degrees. If you can’t adjust the thermostat that low, consider a fan.
8. Eat dinner earlier.
When you eat dinner too late, your body might not be done digesting the food before bed, which can keep you awake. It can also cause nighttime heartburn.
9. Quit smoking.
Nicotine, a stimulant, can disrupt sleep. Plus, because smokers experience nicotine withdrawal at night, their sleep may be affected. A recent study showed that smokers are four times as likely as nonsmokers to say they don’t feel rested after sleep.
10. Skip the late-night snack.
Avoid eating two hours before bed (especially sugary foods) because a spike in blood sugar can affect sleep.
11. Try a relaxing activity.
Don’t spend hours in bed trying to fall asleep. If you are having trouble falling asleep, get out of bed and go do something else. But stay away from the television or computer. Instead, try reading a book or doing a puzzle until you’re tired.
12. Pull the shades.
The darker your room, the better for sleep.
13. Do a sound check.
If noises outside your room are keeping you up, consider purchasing an ambient noise machine or ear plugs.
14. Pass on the nightcap.
Alcoholic beverages might make you sleepy, but alcohol interferes with deep, restful sleep.
15. Check in.
You’re halfway through the plan, and you’ve already made a number of changes! This is a good time to see how you’re feeling.
16. Hit the gym.
Regular exercise can help improve sleep. helps improve sleep. The ideal amount of exercise is about 30 minutes a day, five or more days a week.
17. But not too close to bedtime.
A workout boosts energy and may make it hard to go to sleep. Plus, your body temperature increases during exercise, and the body needs time to cool. Experts suggest working out more than two hours before bedtime.
18. Kick the caffeine.
To optimize your sleep, avoid caffeine in the evenings. In fact, because everyone’s body is different, you might consider avoiding caffeine after noon. The “half-life” of caffeine is 12 hours, which means if you drink a can of Monster (140mg of caffeine) at noon, there is still 70mg in your blood stream at midnight—as if you drank a cup of coffee just then.
19. Get comfortable.
That might mean investing in a new mattress, better pillows or softer bedding.
20. Check in.
OK, just 10 more days to go. Are you sleeping at least seven hours a night? Are you waking up rested?
21. Just say no.
If you find you still aren’t getting enough sleep, it might be time to say no to optional responsibilities at work and at home.
Clearing physical clutter can be a good way to ease mental clutter and help you relax.
23 Nab a nap.
Power naps under 20 minutes can be wonderful. Just don’t nap too long or too close to bedtime.
24. Turn off all electronics.
Recent studies have shown that chronic exposure to blue light from electronic screens reduces melatonin production. We need melatonin, which is the sleep hormone in our brain. When you have less of it that impairs sleep. Stop watching TV, using your computer, and playing on your phone for as long as possible before bed.
25. Go easy on fluids.
Stay hydrated, of course, but try to limit how much water you drink before bed. A trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night can disrupt sleep.
26. Kick all pets out of bed.
Your pet might be snuggly, but that doesn’t mean it’s helping you rest.
27. Stress less.
Stress is a known obstacle to good sleep. Find a coping mechanism that works for you, such as adult coloring books, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or meditation.
28. Get enough daylight.
While it’s important to avoid lights at night, it’s also important to get some sunlight during the day (or use a light therapy box to simulate the light if you need to) to help regulate your body’s melatonin and sleep-wake cycle. Many studies have shown that exposure to sunlight when you first get out of bed in the morning (30 to 45 minutes) helps you sleep better at night.
29. Enjoy your downtime.
If your day is too intense and compact, even if you get to your evening and you’re ready to collapse, your mind might still be racing. At some point during the day, try to take a 15- to 30-minute break to listen to music, meditate or simply enjoy some quiet time.
30. Final check.
Have you made progress to better sleep? However, if you’ve tried our tips for better sleep and are still tired during the day (or struggle to fall asleep at night), we encourage you to talk to your doctor.
You don’t have to put up with sleep problems. For the vast majority of people, there are answers for sleep problems.
COULD IT BE SLEEP APNEA?
If you have healthy lifestyle habits and are getting plenty of sleep but still wake up feeling tired, something else might be at work. Feeling tired and sleep deprived during the day isn’t normal. If you feel chronically tired, you may have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a disorder that is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. When you take shallow breaths or briefly stop breathing during sleep, it can take you out of deep sleep and into a lighter sleep. One sign of sleep apnea is snoring.
Deep sleep is restorative sleep. So, if you’re missing out on this quality sleep, it’s no wonder you might be tired during the day.
Left untreated, the National Institutes of Health reports, sleep apnea can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. If you think you might have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, talk to your doctor.
A better night’s sleep can mean a happier, healthier you. It’s best to talk to a sleep expert about your sleepless nights because they could be due to a medical condition, such as anemia, an underactive thyroid, heart disease, hormone imbalance, sleep apnea, depression, hepatitis, or something else.
These are just a few of the many reasons you should visit the Sleep Institute if you suspect that you or a loved one might have a sleep disorder. Their high-tech sleep studies can help you determine the precise nature of your sleep-related problem. Then, they can create a treatment plan personalized to your condition.
The Sleep Institute has two convenient locations:
Health & Wellness Sleep Institute
1553 E. Center St.
Pocatello, ID 83201
P: (208) 233-9355
Bingham Memorial Sleep Lab
53 Poplar St.
Blackfoot, ID 83221
P: (208) 782-2889
Our content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.