Now more than ever, many adults are in search of a restful night's sleep. A few simple lifestyle changes throughout the day may provide for better sleep tonight and increased wellness for the new year ahead. Some tips from Healthline.com, MayoClinic.com and SleepFoundation.org:
Separate sleep from stress.
According to a 2009 survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, nearly one third of participants said the current tough economic times have kept them up at least a few nights a week. To help, do your best to keep worries out of the bedroom. Save money discussions with your partner until morning, and don't try to work or pay bills in bed.
Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol in the evening.
These are stimulants that can keep you awake. Avoid caffeine for eight hours before your planned bedtime. Your body doesn't store caffeine, but it takes many hours to eliminate the stimulant and its effects. And although often believed to be a sedative, alcohol actually disrupts sleep.
Stop playing catch-up.
Snoozing until noon on Saturdays won't make up for skimping on sleep all week. Instead, try sticking to a regular sleep schedule where you get up around the same time every morning and you go to bed around the same time every night.
Create a comfortable bedroom.
Make your bedroom cool, dark, quiet and comfortable. Create a room that's ideal for sleeping. Adjust the lighting, temperature, humidity and noise level to your preferences. Use blackout curtains, eye covers, earplugs, extra blankets, a fan or white-noise generator, a humidifier or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs. Choose a comfortable mattress and pillow. Children and pets are often disruptive, so you may need to set limits on how often they sleep in bed with you. If you sleep with a partner, your mattress should allow each of you enough space to move easily. Couples who've been sleeping on a "double" (full size) may think they have enough room, until they learn that each person has only as much sleeping space as a baby's crib!
Exercise earlier in the day.
Regular exercise may help you sleep better, but not if it's done too close to late in the day. To give your body ample time to wind down, stop your workout at least three hours before bedtime.
Don't eat or drink large amounts before bedtime.
Eat a light dinner at least two hours before sleeping. Avoid spicy and fatty foods, which can make heartburn flare and prevent a restful sleep.
Go to bed when you're tired and turn out the lights.
If you don't fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, get up and do something else. Go back to bed when you're tired. Don't agonize over falling asleep. The stress will only prevent sleep.
Use sleeping pills only as a last resort.
Check with your doctor before taking any sleep medications. He or she can make sure the pills won't interact with your other medications or with an existing medical condition. Your doctor can also help you determine the best dosage. If you do take a sleep medication, reduce the dosage gradually when you want to quit, and never mix alcohol and sleeping pills. If you feel sleepy or dizzy during the day, talk to your doctor about changing the dosage or discontinuing the pills.
If you have sleep problems, use a sleep diary and talk to your doctor.
Note what type of sleep problem is affecting your sleep or if you are sleepy when you wish to be awake and alert. Try these tips and record your sleep and sleep-related activities in a sleep diary. If problems continue, discuss the sleep diary with your doctor. There may be an underlying cause and you will want to be properly diagnosed. Your doctor will help treat the problem or may refer you to a sleep specialist.
Cindi Dinger, on behalf of the Wellness Committee