We all know a good night's sleep is important. We feel better, more productive when we've had enough. But when our body is sleep deprived, it weakens our immune system, making us more vulnerable to infection. So why is a good night's sleep so elusive?
There are a number of fairly straightforward measures you can take to bring you peaceful slumber:
Shhh! Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet. Not even electronic humming from appliances if you can help it. Do not let low light sources, like a clock, glow in your dark. This is your sanctuary. Make it as peaceful as possible.
Be comfy. To be completely comfortable all through the night, you may want to turn the temp down a bit. Experiment to discover what temperature is right for you. And make sure your mattress is comfortable. If you have not had a new one since, uh, you can not remember when, take a good look at it. You spend a lot of time on your mattress, so it's critical that it's supportive and comfortable.
Sleep and sex only! Reserve your bed for two activities, period. Well, some people like to read in bed, which helps them fall asleep, but that's it. No calling your mom, no making to-lists, no working on your computer, no snacking. Pretty soon your brain will get the idea that when you're in bed, you should fall sleep. Or, you know, read.
Pull the plug. So many people have TVs in their bedrooms and fall sleep to late night shows. Then a loud commercial comes on and jolts them out of sleep. There are so many reasons why TV is not conducive to sleep-violence, noise, blaring light. Just get rid of it.
Be boring. Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up about the same time every morning. Yes, even on weekends. Your brain gets used the routine and puts you on autopilot for a good night's sleep.
Exercise, yes, but not too late. Exercise during the day can deepen your sleep at night, and it's a good idea no matter what. But slow down about two hours before bedtime. Vigorous exercise before bed can keep you awake.
Naps are not that nice. Some people swear by naps to help them through the day, but make them short-like 20 minutes or so. And as early in the day as possible. If you have that urge to nap about 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon, fight it. Take a walk, drink cold water, do jumping jacks.
Watch your mouth. Late night fridge attacks are not conducive to slowing your body down for sleep. Keep away from caffeine-even a cup of tea has enough caffeine in it to keep your up. Chocolate, too. You might think a nightcap will help, and alcohol does help you fall sleep. But when blood alcohol levels drop, you wake up in the middle of the night.
These are all common sense tactics for getting a good night's sleep. But what happens if you still wake up at 4:00 am and can not get back to sleep? I'll talk about that next week.