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Nothing can be more frustrating than laying on bed at night and waiting for sleep that won’t come. There are many reasons why you’re having a hard time dozing off. You may be suffering from insomnia, experiencing immense stress or practicing unhealthy lifestyle habits. It’s also possible that you have an underlying medical condition that affects your ability to get good sleep.
According to the sleep experts at National Sleep Foundation, an adult aged 18 to 64 should be sleeping for 7 to 9 hours each night. Older adults, aged 65 and older, are advised to get 7 to 8 hours of nightly sleep. If you’re not meeting these sleep recommendations, you’re jeopardizing your health. Studies suggest that sleep deprivation can cause “increased blood pressure, impaired control of blood glucose and increased inflammation.” It’s linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. People suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders are also likely to develop anxiety and depression.
Here’s a guide to a healthy daily routine for better sleep.
#1: Have a gadget-free sleeping area
The blue light emitted by your laptop, tablet, and smartphone is interfering with your circadian rhythm. It suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin, stimulating the brain at any time of the day/night. This is why you could watch movies ’til dawn without feeling drowsy.
Tip: Turn off your gadgets at least 1 hour before bedtime. Better yet, turn your bedroom into a gadget-free zone to help you fight the temptation of browsing social media at 11 p.m.
#2: Make exercise a part of your daily lifestyle
Fitness activities are good for your physical and mental health. Harvard Medical School considers exercise as one of the three pillars of health, together with nutrition and sleep. A healthy adult should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine revealed that exercising has positive impact on attaining proper sleep even among people diagnosed of insomnia. In the study, the participants, mostly in their 60s, were sleeping at least 45 minutes more a night after four months of active lifestyle.
Tip: Don’t have time to hit the gym everyday? Check out free fitness videos on Youtube on routines you can do at home. You can learn 15-minute exercises that don’t require any gym equipment. Schedule 15 minutes of exercise in the morning and 15 more at night on weekdays, and 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous routines in the gym on weekends.
#3: Schedule your coffee time
Is coffee affecting your ability to sleep at night? It depends. You may have read a number of studies supporting the positive points of consuming caffeine. These include lowering cholesterol levels, boosting liver health, and reducing depression risk. It helps boost one’s mental performance and memory. But you should know that the effect of coffee can last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. So if you drink a cup of black brew late in the afternoon, you’d likely stay up past your bedtime.
Tip: Enjoy a cup of coffee, not during breakfast when you’re energy is up, but at around 10 a.m. Your energy levels typically drops mid-day and again at around 3 p.m. Avoid caffeine after 4 p.m.
#4: Practice mindfulness meditation
Stress is a major cause of poor sleep. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 70 percent of those experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety have trouble sleeping. Their sleep problem, conversely, increased their anxiety. The solutions seem straightforward: reduce your stressors. But this is easier said than done especially when you’re living in urban areas where you’re exposed to congestion and various forms of pollution.
Tip: The root cause of stress is one’s obsession with thinking about the non-existent past and future. The core of meditation, probably the most effective stress-busting activity, is to be present. Take a 3-minute break from working or studying every 2 hours. You can stay still on your chair or walk toward the window, then clear your mind. Think about nothing, just feel your surroundings.
#5: Declutter your room
Does your mind keep on running even during bedtime? This is a manifestation of stress. “Our bodies and brains evolved to relax and cool down after dark and to spring back into action come morning,” the American Psychological Association noted. But stress causes hyperarousal, wreaking havoc on your sleep-wake cycle. If not managed, stress can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, heart diseases, and cancers.
Tip: Identify your stressors. If your desk reminds you of an unfinished task, you better find a new place for your work area. You can also clean up your desk and put away your laptop and journal. Declutter your room. The visual chaos can be a stressor that interferes with your sleep.
#6: Eat light at night
Your diet has a lot to do with your ability to attain proper sleep. Spicy and acidic foods for dinner can cause heartburn and acid reflux that might disrupt your sleep. Eating a lot before bedtime has the same impact. Is a carbohydrate-heavy meal bad for your sleep health? It depends on the time and volume of your meal. Carbs or not, if taken in large quantities and near bedtime, may keep you up all night.
Tip: Eat a heavy breakfast and light lunch and dinner. For dinner, you can have sleep-inducing foods such as turkey, tuna, lettuce, and brown rice. Have a cup of hot chamomile tea before bedtime.
#7: Create a conducive sleeping environment
If you’re having a hard time dozing off at night, you should take a look around your own bedroom. Do you have a lot of stuff in your room? Is your bed mattress still comfortable or is it starting to cause muscle pain? Does your room have ample air ventilation? Is it cool throughout the night? The overall atmosphere in your bedroom can make a lot of difference to the quality of your sleep.
Tip: Move your work desk into another room in your house, as well as your entertainment system. Keep the television and stereo in the living area. Keep all clothes in the closet and other items in storage. You may want to replace your old mattress with memory foam for optimal sleep quality. Keep your room dark and cool at night.
#8: Decide to improve your sleep
You need to change your mindset about sleep. It’s not an interruption of your daily activities. It’s an essential part of your life. Sleep is as important as healthy diet and regular exercise. It’s more important than accumulating wealth or earning fame.
A healthy night sleep, sadly, is widely neglected in our fast-paced society. “The combination of a deeply misguided definition of what it means to be successful in today’s world—that it can come only through burnout and stress—along with the distractions and temptations of a 24/7 wired world, has imperiled our sleep as never before,” Arianna Huffington, business leader and author, wrote in her bestseller “The Sleep Revolution.” Make a real change in your life. Aspire to achieve healthy sleep habits.