Having trouble getting to sleep? If and when you do finally nod off, do you wind up having a fitful, choppy slumber broken up by bathroom trips, glances at the alarm clock, and other external and internal distractions?
If it’s any comfort as you toss and turn, valiantly trying to get comfortable so you can (finally) get some quality sleep, it turns out you’re not alone. Far from it, according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC).
As America’s watchdog established to keep citizens free from health, safety and security threats around the clock, the CDC has acknowledged that insufficient sleep is an important public health problem. Not only does it impair our ability to function at work and home, it may contribute to increased motor vehicle accidents and job-related errors. It doesn’t do wonders for our moods or relationships either.
What’s even more alarming is that people who aren’t getting their recommended number of zzz’s each night may have a greater propensity for diabetes, depression, obesity, hypertension and other mental and physical concerns.
Suffice it to say that quality slumber is critical for your quality of life. But many people either don’t know how to do so – or unwittingly sabotage themselves by their sleep-sapping behaviors.
By simply making small lifestyle changes, you may reap significant sleep and health benefits.
Step 1: Prepare your sleep sanctuary
We’re genetically programmed to operate on a circadian cycle, and we tend to function best when we go to sleep at sunset and get up at sunrise. To do so effectively, we need to set the right stage. Make the room as dark as dark as possible by installing black-out blinds and eliminating extraneous light from alarm clocks, cell phone and computer monitors. Nod off on comfortable cotton sheets and a mattress suited to your individual sleep preferences. And ensure that silence is golden by eliminating background noise from clocks, TVs and other electronic devices.
Step 2: Watch what you eat
This applies most to what you put in your body a few hours before you put your head on your pillow. Avoid carbohydrates, particularly those from refined sugars and processed foods, as they increase our sugar levels, which triggers insulin production and hence blood sugar level drop in the middle of the night. Instead, think natural – fresh fruits (especially tart cherries, thanks to their high melatonin content), vegetables, nuts, seeds and omega-3-rich cold water fish. And it’s just common sense that you don’t want to wolf down a spicy or heavy meal right before bedtime – unless you’re asking for indigestion, vivid dreams and compromised sleep.
Step 3: De-toxify your lifestyle