First you try opening the window, and toss and turn for a while. Then you get up and shut it. Maybe the pillow isn't fluffy enough, so you fluff it. You can't stop thinking about work and all the things you have to get done tomorrow. You fluff the pillow again. You roll onto your back, and then onto your stomach, and then return to your back. Fluff the pillow one more time. Lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, you realize that, once again, you are not going to get any sleep tonight.
During sleep, the body repairs and revitalizes itself. The brain, cardiovascular system, immune system, and other important parts of the body rely on sleep to function properly.
If you do not get enough sleep, you may experience:
- Increased stress
- Impaired memory
- Shortened temper
- Lower motivation
- Problems with decision making and doing tasks
Getting a good night's sleep can be difficult challenge, though. Before reaching for an over-the-counter sleep aid, try these natural tips:
- Keep regular hours. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning, even on weekends.
- Develop a sleep ritual.
Whether it is to take a hot bath, have a cup of herbal tea, or read a book, doing the same things each night just before bed cues your body to settle down for the night.
- Exercise regularly.
This can help to relieve tension. But be careful not to exercise too close to bedtime or you may have a hard time falling asleep.
- Cut down on stimulants.
Consuming stimulants, such as caffeine, in the evening interferes with falling asleep and prevents deep sleep. Instead, have a cup of herbal tea, which is noncaffeinated, before bed.
- Don't smoke.
Smokers tend to take longer to fall asleep, awaken more often, and experience disrupted, fragmented sleep.
- Drink alcohol in moderation.
You may fall asleep faster, but drinking alcohol shortly before bedtime interrupts and fragments sleep, leading to poor quality sleep.
- Unwind early in the evening.
Deal with worries and distractions several hours before going to bed. Make a list of things you need to do tomorrow, so you won't think about them all night. Try relaxation exercises, like slow rhythmic breathing, once in bed.
- Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress and foundation.
It's difficult to get deep, restful sleep on a bed that's too small, too soft, or too hard.
- Create a restful sleep environment.
A dark, quiet room is more conducive to sleep. Sudden, loud noises or bright lights can disrupt sleep. A room that is too hot or too cold can disturb sleep, as well.
- Make sleep a priority.
Say "yes" to sleep even when you're tempted to stay up late. You'll feel healthier, refreshed, and ready to take on the day.
In addition, restrict the number of activities you do in bed. Your bed should not become a place for watching TV, eating food, or doing work. It should be a place for sleep and sex. Hopefully, by following these tips you will be on your way to a blissful slumber.
In the bedroom: sleep strategies. Better Sleep Council Canada website. Available at: http://www.bettersleep.ca/. Accessed June 5, 2012.
Last reviewed June 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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