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How to Sleep Better

08/05/2014 | Parent Health, Room to Grow | by Jane Thomas

How well you sleep affects how you feel during your waking hours. In order to get a good night’s sleep, you need to develop and keep a regular sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and prepare for sleep.

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Develop and Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule

Healthy adults, on average, need at least eight hours of sleep. The question is: How much sleep is enough for you? Your body has a natural sleep-wake cycle—your circadian rhythm. Finding it is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep.

To find out how much sleep you need, experiment. Find a time when you can experiment with sleep and wake times. You will need a week or two, but the results are well worth it. Go to bed every night at the same time and sleep until you wake up on your own – no alarm clock. Decide on a bedtime that will allow you enough sleep with the ability to get up with plenty of time to assume your regular daily schedule.

You may be surprised at how long you sleep at first, because you may be sleep deprived. Eventually, however, you will begin to get up at the same time each morning. This will establish how much sleep you actually need. Continue going to bed at the same time every night. If you are nervous about waking up on time, you can set our alarm clock. However, set it for fifteen minutes later than you are naturally waking. You will probably wake before the alarm each morning. If you wake earlier than you would like, use the extra time as a special morning time just for yourself!

Now that you know how much sleep you need, you should keep a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day. Do not break this routine, even on weekends. If you sleep the same number of hours, but at different times, you will not feel as refreshed and energized. If you do decide to change your bedtime, help your body adjust by making changes in small daily increments, such as 15 minutes earlier or later each day.

Create a relaxing bedtime routine

To get to sleep easier and have deeper sleep throughout the night, unwind before bed. You need a peaceful bedtime routine to tell your mind to wind down, let go of the day’s stress, and begin to send those sleep signals to your brain.

  • Spend at least one hour before bedtime without any stimulating or stress inducing activity. Read or listen to music. Avoid television, computer games, or anything that might stir up your body, mind, or emotions.
  • A hot bath or shower can help your muscles relax. Try a vanilla body wash, as the scent of vanilla is said to induce drowsiness.
  • If aches and pains prevent your sleep, massage joints with a pain-relieving cream or gel.

Prepare Your Sleep Area

  • Make your sleep area quiet.

If you have anything in your sleep area that may interrupt your sleep, turn it off or move it out. If external noises cannot be avoided or eliminated – barking dogs, city traffic, or loud music from neighbors – try using earplugs or mask the noise with a fan or sleep-sounds recording.

  • Make the temperature comfortable.

If your bedroom is too hot or too cold, your sleep quality will not be as good. You should keep your room cool – around 65 degrees. However, you need to experiment to find out what temperature is best for you. Make sure your feet stay warm. You may need to wear socks for sleeping.

  • Make sure your bed is comfortable

Your bed should have enough room for you to stretch and turn comfortably. It may be time to buy a new mattress or pillow if you often wake up with an aching neck or stiff back. Consider a firmer mattress or a specially designed sleep pillow.

  • Find your preferred sleeping position.

Again, you need to experiment to find what will provide you with the best night’s sleep. Also, match your pillow to the position you choose. If you find sleeping on your stomach or back is most comfortable, choose a thin pillow. For sleeping on your side, a medium height pillow is best. Studies have indicated the preferred sleep position is the right side, so try this position. You may also want two pillows, one for your head and a soft pillow to rest your top leg on for increased comfort.

  • Make your bedroom as dark as possible.

Change bright light bulbs to low-wattage bulbs to avoid bright lights before bed. When it is time for sleep, make sure your room is dark. The darker your bedroom is, the better you will sleep. Cover anything that puts out light and use shades or heavy curtains to block light from windows. Consider using a sleep mask if you find it difficult to make your room totally dark.

Tips for Falling Asleep

Sometimes we do everything required and still cannot get to sleep. At those times, try the following:

  • Count your breaths.
  • Say you multiplication tables.
  • Say the alphabet – backwards!
  • Think of something you love to do and walk yourself mentally through the activity.

If none of this works after thirty minutes, get up and do something relaxing, such as reading a non-stimulating book, until you feel sleepy.

The cure for most sleep difficulties you may be experiencing can be found with a bit of time and experimentation to find out what works best for you. Obtaining a good night’s sleep is possible. And the rewards of a good night’s sleep – increased energy, the ability to be more productive during waking hours, and a feeling of healthy confidence – make taking time to do so well worth it.

Note: Serious insomnia can be a symptom or result of a medical condition. If you suspect a problem consult your physician.

 

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