Sleep is important to both our physical and mental health. Sleep can help our bodies heal from injury and illness and can contribute to improved memory, alertness and mood. Chronic sleep loss on the other hand, may not only accelerate the onset but may increase the magnitude of age-related conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and memory loss. Lack of sleep can also increase stress, reduce productivity, impair learning and reasoning and in some people, may contribute to the development of psychiatric problems.
While every person’s sleep needs are different, the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Teenagers, adolescents and young children need varying amounts depending on age.
Sometimes sleep problems are a result of bad lifestyle habits and can be resolved merely by changing some of these habits. Consider these sleep tips:
- Use relaxation exercises at bedtime.
- Learn to do nothing in bed except sleep. Don’t use your bed to watch TV, pay bills or balance your checkbook.
- If you do not fall asleep in 15 to 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room and do a quiet activity until you feel sleepy and then return to bed. If you still are not asleep in 15 minutes or so, get up again. Be sure to get up at your regular wake time.
- Try going to bed later.
- Get up at the same time each day.
- If your mind is racing with things you need to do, get up and make a list to allow you to clear your head. Then try returning to bed.
- Try a warm, relaxing bath or glass of warm milk before bed. Milk contains amino acids called L-trytophan that may help reduce the time needed to fall asleep.
- Regular exercise can help improve sleep. However, exercise in the late evening can make falling asleep more difficult.
- Avoid loud noises in your sleep environment.
- Avoid excessive warmth in your sleeping area.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks in the evening. Also avoid eating heavy or rich foods before sleep. Chronic use of tobacco can also disturb sleep.
- Avoid excessive alcohol, especially in the evening. (Alcohol suppresses dream sleep and disrupts sleep patterns.)
- Avoid chronic use of sleeping pills which tend to lose their effectiveness over extended use.