But for an estimated 60 million Americans struggling with what the CDC considers an epidemic of sleep deprivation, quality rest doesn’t come effortlessly. It’s a waking nightmare of sorts that is routinely complicated by a multitude of counterproductive decisions that savvy insomniacs are now careful to avoid.
So what quick and painless steps can you take beginning today in order to get a better night’s sleep tonight? Here are ten to get you started.
1. Kick the cats and dogs out of your bed
They may be loving members of the family that share your home, but that doesn’t mean they should share your pillow. Whether you realize it or not, pets regularly disrupt one’s sleep. For those to whom a sound night’s sleep is a rarity, restricting a pet’s access to the bed may reduce unnecessary middle-of-the-night disturbances.
2. The snorer has to go
It may sound cold, but the chronic snorer who shares your bed needs to be dispatched to another room until the condition that causes their snoring is medically addressed and treated – for their sake and yours.
3. Keep the kids in their bed
Much like the cats and dogs, kick the kids out of your bed. Overwhelming research shows that kids should sleep in their own beds, as it cultivates self-confidence and the ability to self-comfort. Babies, too, sleep just as well in their own cribs and can be conditioned to do well without you by their side.
4. Put the TV and mobile devices to bed
The mayhem of news and social media will still be there in the morning when you rise. So no TV news or Facebook in bed. Artificial light from mobile devices can disrupt specific brain chemicals that promote sleep. Prolonged exposure to a bright tablet screen, for example, impairs the body’s ability to produce melatonin, a natural hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles. Even reading an ebook in bed can negatively affect the body’s ability to relax.
5. Let technology help
Even though electronic devices stimulate brain activity and make it harder to drift off to sleep, groundbreaking mobile technologies like the neuroscience-based Sleep Genius iOS app has been clinically proven to improve sleep length and quality. Additionally, the app is just as valuable in the morning as it is at night. That’s due to the Sleep Genius “Revive Cycle Alarm,” which gradually awakens users from any stage of sleep. Sure beats the typical – and startling – alarm buzzer, which triggers the brain’s fight-or-flight response and releases the stress hormone cortisol.
6. Wash the sheets
Something this simple can really be quite effective. Clean sheets feel great, relax us, and remove the associated smells of work, food, pets and body odor. Wash them at least once a week, maybe more in the summer or if you sweat a lot.
7. Avoid alcohol with dinner
Alcohol can be bad news for sleep. Research shows that the sugar in alcohol negatively affects our sleep in later stages and can cause less-efficient and more restless sleep. The same goes for caffeine and nicotine.
8. Don’t eat heavy dinners or snack before bedtime
Digesting is hard work. And your body shouldn’t have to work so hard when it’s time for bed. Big meals late in the evening and close to bed can be immensely disruptive to sleep. If you feel hungry, a small glass of water will stave off hunger and prevent dehydration which can and often does trick the body into thinking its hungry.
9. Keep your bedroom dark and well ventilated
Sleeping like a vampire may help you sleep like a log. Darken the room as much as possible, taking extra care to reduce all sources of ambient and natural light. In the process, be sure to adequately ventilate the room. Cooler temperatures and fluid air movement aid in regulating body temperature and promoting better sleep.
10. Address tomorrow’s to-dos today
Write a to-do list for tomorrow before bed. Clarifying and assembling the next day’s chores will give closure to your day and lift the common sleep-disturbing worry that you’ll miss an appointment or forget to do something important.
About the Author: Dr. Russ Riendeau is a behavioral scientist and CSO with Sleep Genius. He also runs an executive search practice, writes on leadership effectiveness and tries to get 7-8 hours of sleep. You can reach him at [email protected]