How to make sure you get a better night’s sleep

Chronic lack of sleep is linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and can affect mental health. Sleep requirements vary with age, with children needing more than adults.

Current recommendations are seven to nine hours for ages 18 to 64, and seven to eight hours for those 65 and older. Many factors can influence sleep cycles, including diet, exercise, medications, drugs or alcohol, stress, sleep disorders, and sleep deprivation.

Here are six things to do to help you sleep better:

1. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine too close to bedtime.

Alcohol, a depressant, not only interferes with the deeper stages of sleep, but relaxes muscles in the throat, increasing chances of snoring and breathing problems. Nicotine, a stimulant, raises blood pressure and elevates heart rate. If you have caffeine, try to consume no closer than six hours before bedtime.

2. Stick to schedule.

Do your best to adhere to a regular schedule for going to bed and waking up. Your body functions at its best when set patterns and routines are followed.

3. Relax before bedtime.

Set aside the last hour or so of the day as your time to unwind and relax. This will calm you down, and help you to avoid thoughts associated with stressful events of the day.

4. Keep your bedroom comfortable, dark and quiet.

If you are a light sleeper, “white noise” such as a fan at low speed, or soft, soothing music can help mask sounds that might normally wake you up. A supportive mattress and fresh sheets can make all the difference. Having the right pillow is also important. My personal favorite is the snuggL, an L-shaped whole body pillow designed for side-sleepers. It’s taken the place of the two pillows I used to use, is much more comfortable, and gives just the right amount of support.

The snuggL was designed by a doctor who suffered with lifelong back pain. He was advised to sleep with one pillow between the legs to help align the spine and alleviate pain, but he would either lose the pillow while sleeping or experience uneven alignment created by using two separate pillows. Along with his son, he set out to find a solution and created a single unit full body pillow with consistent density to support the head while also being able to wrap the legs around it, creating better sleep posture. Learn more at www.thesnuggl.com.

5. Adjust your room temperature.

If the bedroom is too warm or too cold, you will be uncomfortable and less likely to rest peacefully.

Our natural ability to regulate body temperature lessens during REM sleep, so abnormally hot or cold temperatures can disrupt this deep stage of sleep.

6. If you can’t sleep, just relax.

If you’ve tried everything and you still can’t fall asleep, don’t fight it, as this usually makes matters worse. Instead, listen to your body, go ahead and get up, or spend this time doing some sort of relaxing activity such as reading until you feel sleepy.

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