Last week, we looked at some of the benefits of a good night’s sleep. This week, we’re focusing on what you can do to ensure you get that quality sleep.
Sleep is a surprisingly complex activity; a number of factors can affect the quality of your sleep. Your age, physical health, lifestyle, and mattress are just some of those factors. Because of this, there is no single, surefire way to ensure a good night’s rest. But here are some things you can do to help improve your sleep, so you can reap its rewards. Always check with your doctor before making any lifestyle changes.
Only use your bed for sleeping and the other “s”-word. Like most people today, chances are you have a TV and maybe even a computer in your bedroom. While this isn’t the most ideal bedroom setup, it can still be conducive to sleep, so long as you’re not watching your favorite soaps and checking your e-mail from your bed. The bed should only be used for sleep and sex. Once you’re in bed, give yourself at least 15 minutes to fall asleep. If you’re not sleepy after 15 minutes, get out of bed until you are, but avoid stimulating activities like watching TV or reading an exciting book.
Sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Keep a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends. It’s tempting to stay up late or sleep in on the weekend, but just an hour change in your sleep schedule can disrupt your entire sleep cycle. Your body adjusts to your sleep schedule at a rate of one hour per day. So if you usually wake up at 6:30, but decide to wake up at 8:30 on the weekend, your body will need two full days to re-adjust. Is two days of bad sleep worth two hours of sleeping in?
Have a bedtime. The term “bedtime” shouldn’t just refer to the moment you get into bed and turn out the light. We all have things we do before settling in for the night. Doing those same things every night will let our bodies know that it’s time to start winding down. This nightly ritual should be performed about 30 minutes prior to going to bed. Whatever your ritual is, do it every night to let your body know it’s time for bed.
Exercise. Daily exercise provides innumerable health benefits, and that includes a good night’s sleep. Try to exercise every day, but not within three hours of your bedtime as this will make it harder to fall asleep.
Get some sun. Expose yourself to some sunlight every day. The sun’s light helps the body’s internal clock keep track of day and night. So the next time the sun’s out, step outside for a brisk morning walk, or at the very least, open the drapes to let some sunlight in.
Darken the bedroom. Darkness helps regulate the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall and stay asleep. Just like sunlight lets the body know it’s day time, darkness signals night. Don’t undermine your body’s internal clock by fooling it with artificial or unnecessary light. Close the drapes and turn off all the lights when you’re ready to sleep.
Change your mattress. One commonly overlooked factor in sleeping conditions is actually the most important: The mattress. Mattresses can be a fairly big investment, and as such, we expect them to last for years with minimal maintenance. While a good quality mattress is built to last about five to seven years, you may need to change yours before that time. As we age, our body’s needs change. Because of this, your mattress may feel comfortable, but it’s not actually giving you the support your body needs. This can lead to trouble sleeping at night, and pain when you wake up in the morning. To find out more about how your mattress can affect your sleep, check out El Dorado Furniture’s Mattress Buying Guide, where you’ll also learn about our exclusive Comfort Scale, which makes it easier than ever to find the perfect mattress.
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"Need a New Mattress?" The Better Sleep Council Website, http://www.bettersleep.org/Ease/evaluate.asp (accessed May 17, 2010).
Stibich, Mark, Ph.D. "Top 10 Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep," About.com Website, October 30,2008, http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongenergy/tp/sleep_hygiene.htm (accessed May 17, 2010).