6 tips for a better night’s sleep

We are a sleep-deprived nation. National health groups estimate that nearly a third of us lack sleep, with more cases of chronic insomnia being reported every day. While there are many studies and opinions about how many hours each person needs to sleep — along with how well those hours are spent —  the most important consideration is the outcome of the rest. Regardless of how many hours you sleep, if you are still feeling tired afterwards, you either are not getting enough rest or you have a medical condition (such as a nutrient deficiency) which is affecting energy levels. Wellness experts believe that it is important to fall asleep gently; often the act of sleeping becomes a chore, so much so that overall rest is compromised.

There are many tips and tricks that you can use to ease your way into a peaceful slumber. Here are six you can try.

  1. Don’t force it — Laying down in bed and forcing yourself to sleep is a bad idea. Usually what happens is that you end up feeling anxious instead. A good trick is to apply a little bit of reverse psychology. Researchers have found that people who try to stay awake become less anxious about falling asleep, and therefore get sleepier faster. Keep in mind though that you still need to be in bed. Don’t read or watch T.V. One good trick is to play the alphabet game where you pick a theme (animals, countries, etc.) and then try naming one thing in that category that begins with each letter of the alphabet. You can also try counting backwards from 100 in threes. Normally, the exercise is too dull to keep you awake.
  2. Understand your sleep cycles — Ideally, you shouldn’t need an alarm clock, but let’s be realistic. A lot of people need them. There are, however, ways to ensure that you don’t wake up grumpy and irritated. The best sleep is when you wake up during the last part of your REM cycle because this is the lightest stage of sleep that is closest to the natural waking state. In a normal rest, we go through six or seven sleep cycles each lasting around 90 minutes. To wake up at the end of a cycle, know when you want to wake up then count backwards in 90-minute blocks to know when to fall asleep. So, for example, if you set your alarm at 7:30 a.m., try going to sleep by either 10:30 p.m. or midnight.
  3. Associate your bed with sleep — A lot of people suffer from “sleep maintenance insomnia” where they wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard to fall back asleep. For these cases, get out of bed and do something that uses both your hands and head, like reading or coloring. Do not watch T.V. or play computer games. The trick here is to engage in an activity that relaxes you and makes you want to sleep. Tossing and turning adds extra tension and tricks your mind into thinking your bed is not relaxing at all. (Related: Effects of Sleep Deprivation.)
  4. Nap during the day — We are programmed to nap thanks to our circadian rhythm. If you can, try napping twice in 20-minute blocks in a day. Those who work in an office should just console themselves that there will be an hour where their energy levels will slump dramatically — but don’t worry, these levels will rise after a while.  
  5. Make the bedroom sleep-friendly — It’s the little things that count, and little goes a long way in ensuring a restful slumber. Make sure that your bedroom is at an appropriate temperature, one that is neither too hot nor too cold. It would also be ideal to invest in a nice set of bed linens.
  6. Try EFT — Emotional  Freedom Technique or tapping is an alternative treatment method only gaining traction recently. Similar to acupuncture, EFT focuses on unblocking energy points by applying pressure to specific body points while repeating several affirmations. While none of the claims of EFT have been validated by medical science, some sleep experts believe that tapping reduces anxiety and helps patients relax.  

Life today may be busier than ever, but it is still important that you take the time to prioritize sleep. If anything, sleep deprivation is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in America caused by drowsy driving or medical errors annually.

Learn better ways to sleep, and see related stories when you visit Research.news.

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