Getting a good night’s sleep ensures more than extra spring in your step each day. According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, chronic sleep loss can contribute to weight gain, high blood pressure, and a weakening of the immune system. Conversely, good sleeping habits boost the ability to learn and remember things, keep weight in check, keep an upbeat attitude, maintain cardiovascular health, fight off disease, and avoid accidents caused by drowsiness. If you struggle with getting quality zzzs, the following tips can help you develop sleeping habits to live by.
1. Go to bed at the same time every night.
One of the best ways to ensure you get enough sleep it to create a routine that you and your body become accustomed to. And step number one in establishing a healthy sleep routine is setting and sticking to a bedtime that allows you to get enough sleep—but not too much sleep. (The National Sleep Foundations claims the “right” amount of sleep is based on the individual and his or her age.) Select a bedtime that gives you between seven and eight hours of snooze time and you’re on the right track.
2. Wake up at the same time every morning.
The yin to the above tip’s yang, waking up at the same time each day not only assures you don’t oversleep. It also enables your body to get into a rhythm, and lots of studies have shown that longstanding routine—as well as adequate sleep—has been linked to longevity.
3. Nap if you go off schedule.
Travel, deadlines, worries, and all kinds of other routine interruptions can put a damper on your sleep schedule. But rather than try to make up lost time by sleeping in, it’s better to take a midday nap when you can. Otherwise, you will throw off your new routine.
4. Don’t drink caffeine in the evening.
The drink that gets you going in the morning is also the one that will keep you up at night—if you drink it too late in the day. Know your limits and avoid caffeine too close to bedtime. After all, the last thing you want to do is tuck yourself in only to stare at the walls as your heart races thanks to an after-dinner espresso.
5. Don’t use technology in your bedroom.
Your TV, smartphone, and computer are all gadgets that get your mind buzzing, not relaxing. In order to calm yourself down, it’s a good idea to keep all distractions out of sight, lest you be inspired to click on the news or check your email one last time. In fact, your bedroom should only incorporate items conducive to sleep.
6. Create darkness.
Your body is designed to take sleep cues from darkness. So why not help it out by making your space nice and dark? Use thick curtains or shades, cover or hide the clock, and help your brain power down for the night.
7. Use a noise machine if necessary.
Some noises are soothing, such as the sound of the ocean or the whisper of the wind. But other noises—like loud neighbors or honking cars—can keep you from getting the zzzs you need. Luckily, there are plenty of noise machines on the market that offer a variety of “white noise” options. Even a fan can help drown out unwanted decibels if you’re in a pinch.
8. Eat on the early side.
Big meals right before bedtime force your body to digest rather than rest while especially rich or spicy meals may cause sleep-depriving discomfort as they make their way through your stomach. Eat light and on the early side and you’ll ensure your food won’t keep you up.
9. Avoid alcohol before bed.
Sure alcohol can make you drowsy and even help you fall asleep. But it also tends to wake you up in the middle of the night, lessening the overall quality of your sleep. Steer clear of libations, or go moderate early in the evening, to increase your chances of solid sleep.
10. Make sure your bed is comfortable.
If ever there were an investment worth making, it’s a quality mattress and bedding. Yes, these items are expensive. But consider them a preventative medical expense—seriously. A good mattress and comfy sheets and pillows help ensure you get the sleep you need—and all the health benefits that come with it.