4.63 How to Improve Your Sleep

Now that we understand how important sleep is for your heart health, lets figure out how to make your sleep better to get you that 7-9 hours of rest that you need.

We call healthy sleeping habits “sleep hygiene”. There is a lot of research that has been done to figure out a set of guidelines and tips to improve sleep. There is research to suggest that these strategies can provide long-term solutions to sleep difficulties.

Get regular sleep: It is quite helpful to have a regular schedule. If possible know when you are going to go to sleep every night and stay consistent as best as you can. Your body should naturally wake up 7-9 hours later. Then this will be your time to get up in the morning.

Going to bed at a different time each night does throw off your sleep. Likewise, setting an alarm to wake up extra early is harmful as well.

Sleep when you are tired: If you spend too much time laying awake in bed, this is not good. Be sure you are sleepy when you get in bed. If you are not sleepy when it should be bed time, keep a journal to figure out what may have been different that day that could be altering your sleep pattern.

Use your bed only for sleeping: If you do other activities in bed such as reading a book, watching TV or doing work, then your body and brain will not associate your bed with going to sleep. Use your bed only for sleep and sex, nothing else.

Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol: Most people know how caffeine can keep you awake. Do not drink any caffeine in any form for at least 4-6 hours or longer before bedtime. Some people are more affected by caffeine than others and may need to avoid it for as long as 12 hours before bed.

Nicotine and alcohol also alter your sleep cycle. Many people associate drinking alcohol with falling asleep easier, but in reality the quality of that sleep is so poor that you do not end up well rested.

Do not take naps: If you take a nap during the day, you will be less tired at night. If you absolutely must take a nap, be sure it is short (less than 1 hour) and early (before 3PM).

Bath time: Taking a hot bath or shower 1-2 hours before bed is helpful to get you a good night sleep. Your body responds to changes in body temperature. A hot bath/shower will increase your temperature, then as it falls it signals the body that it is time for bed.

Sleep rituals: Having a routine before bed can help train your mind to get ready to sleep. Stretching, reading a book or having some warm milk can help.

Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep. Be sure to avoid vigorous exercise right before bed, however, since it does get the adrenaline going.

Eat Healthy: Eating a clean diet low in fat and sugar has been shown to improve sleep. Many people do not like to sleep on an empty stomach, so here comes the glass of milk again! Be sure it is low fat milk of course. Having a heavy meal before bed does NOT help sleep. If you push your dinner back to about 3-4 hours before sleep you should be OK.

Sleep environment: It is important to have a quiet, comfortable sleep environment. Distractions need to be limited. Use earplugs if necessary or an eye mask if morning sunlight disturbs your sleep.

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