According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention around 70 million Americans are suffering from chronic sleep problems. This is an alarming figure because numerous studies are linking lack of sleep to vehicular accidents, poor work performance, mood problems, and relationship problems.
Our sleeping habits are usually determined by how we live. This is according to Meir Kryger, MD, who is the director of the Sleep Disorders Centre at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre at the University of Manitoba. He adds that our sleep deficit is often related to stress from work, working night shifts, and working for long hours on the home computer until past midnight. Another source of sleep deficit is the intake of too much caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine. The key then to sleeping better at night is to address the root of the matter— our unhealthy lifestyle. If you’re a night owl, the following tips might help!
Have a regular sleep routine.
Our body has its own clock telling it when to sleep and when to wake up. Sleeping at the same time each night helps set our body clock. Also, waking up at around the same time each morning will set your body to wake up naturally.
Help your body release more melatonin at night.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by our brain to make us feel sleepy. But the amount of melatonin which our body secretes depends on our exposure to the light. During the day, while the sun is up our brain secretes less melatonin to keep us awake and alert; meanwhile it releases more in the evening to make us drowsy. But spending many hours in front of a bright computer screen or TV can send signal to your brain to produce less melatonin and make it harder for you to sleep. To solve this problem, keep your room dark by turning off the computer or TV or by covering your eyes with a sleep mask.
Use your bed only for sleeping.
If you’re using your bed for work or other stressful activities, you’ll find it harder to fall asleep at night. Use it only for sleep. So whenever you go to bed, your brain knows it’s time to snooze.
Avoid eating large meals before bedtime.
Eat an early dinner and try not to eat fatty foods two hours before bedtime. Heavy, rich foods can cause your stomach to work harder and may keep you wide awake. In addition, avoid acidic or spicy foods at night because they can cause heartburn and stomach trouble.
Don’t drink alcohol before bedtime.
There’s a prevailing notion that a drink at night can help people fall asleep faster. While this may be true, there’s a downside to it. Drinking alcohol can lower the quality of your sleep by waking you up late at night.
Avoid caffeine hours before bedtime
Studies show that the effect of caffeine on our body lasts up to twelve hours. This means you shouldn’t be drinking coffee after lunch or cut down your overall caffeine intake.
Many studies show a strong correlation between smoking and sleep problems. This is not surprising because cigarettes contain nicotine which is a stimulant. Also, as the night progresses most smokers suffer from nicotine withdrawal and as a result, find it rather difficult to fall asleep.
Practice relaxation techniques before bed.
Relaxation techniques can help calm your mind and prepare your body for sleep. Deep breathing is probably the most common way to relax. Also, imagining a peaceful and calming place can soothe your mind and eventually doze you off to sleep.