It seems that the older I get, the easier it is for my sleep to be disrupted. I find myself waking up in the middle of the night, tossing and turning, thinking about the events of the day and the worries of tomorrow. The next thing I know, the alarm goes off and … ugh, I just want to stay in bed!
Does sleep elude you, too? If so, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50 to 70 million U.S. adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder. That’s a whole lot of tossing and turning.
Unfortunately, over time, lack of sleep can be detrimental to your health. Indeed, sleeplessness has been linked to everything from obesity and diabetes to hypertension, cancer, and depression, according to the CDC. Plus, when you’re sleep-deprived, you tend to eat more throughout the day and make poor food choices (I know I’m guilty of this!).
5 Ways to Get More Sleep
A good night’s sleep should be part of your daily health regimen. Chances are you’ve heard a variety of tips and tricks to promote a sleep-ready you — a cup of hot tea before bed; a cool, dark bedroom; a notepad on the nightstand to document all the thoughts running through your mind.
These are all great tips. Here are five more that are backed by science; they’ve helped me wake up with a pep in my step.
- Make healthy food choices. Not eating enough vegetables throughout the day, over-snacking, and making less than optimal food choices have been shown to have a negative impact on sleep — yet another reason to eat healthy.
- Practice mindfulness. Tuning in to your thoughts and feelings throughout the day can help you become more mindful — and catch more z’s. According to a study published in April 2015 in JAMA Internal Medicine, mindfulness practices can help improve the quality of your sleep. Practicing yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises are all great ways to get started.
- Watch what you eat. Some foods may cause indigestion, so be sure to avoid these at dinnertime. It may also help to eat foods high in fiber: A clinical trial published in January 2016 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that a dinner high in fiber and low in saturated fat and sugar led to a more restorative and restful night’s sleep. It’s also a good idea to allow four hours or more between dinnertime and bedtime.
- Avoid electronic devices. Too much time spent on electronic devices before bed has been shown to have a negative impact on sleep. Consider reducing the amount of time spent on a smartphone, computer or other electronic device before you turn in. If you love reading on your iPad or other device, you might want to switch to a paperback book or magazine.
- Indulge yourself. Relaxing into a warm bath before bedtime is not a new idea; but did you know it has been proven to help you sleep better? Light the candles, add some bubbles, and enjoy!
In addition to these proven tips, simple behavioral changes can produce real, long-term effects to improve the quality of sleep. And if you happen to have a sleepless night while you’re working on changing your habits, take heart: A brief nap during the day counteracts the impact of a night spent tossing and turning.
The No. 1 motivation for us to make better health choices is because we want to feel good — and waking up tired does not feel good. If you are having trouble sleeping, focus some time and energy on making this better; it will have real payoffs.