Sleep Better Photo: Evgeny Atamanenko/shutterstock.com

BY JILLIAN HALL

Sleep deprivation (especially over an extended period) can have serious health consequences. It can inhibit your cognitive abilities and increase your risk for heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. Missing out on sleep can even cause symptoms of depression.

So, what can you do to get the sleep you need? Here are 18 tips that really help.

1. Make sure your mattress hasn’t outlived its life expectancy.
Most mattresses only last for eight to ten years. As your mattress ages, it stops providing the support your body needs. If yours is too old, it’s time to replace it.

2. Stick to a sleep schedule.
You might think that bedtimes are only for children, but they can help adults sleep better, as well. Waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day, even on weekends, can help your body set its circadian rhythm (or sleep/wake cycle) and improve your rest.

3. Create a nighttime ritual for relaxation.
Choose an activity that you find relaxing — like reading, having a cup of tea, or listening to music — and start doing it an hour or so before bed. A relaxing ritual will help you release the stress of the day and prepare for sleep.

4. Avoid TV and other blue light sources at night (like cell phones, tablets, digital clocks, computers, etc.).
This type of light suppresses melatonin, which plays a crucial role in regulating the hormones that help you sleep. Additionally, TV shows or games on phones can be energizing, making it more difficult to fall asleep.

5. Find the exercise balance.
Exercising can improve your rest, but only if you do it at least four hours before bedtime. Since exercise stimulates your body, it can disrupt your ability to fall asleep.

6. Eat foods that help you sleep.
Eating carbohydrate-rich foods can boost serotonin levels in your brain. Serotonin helps you feel calm and aids in melatonin production in your body. This domino effect will help you fall asleep more easily. You can choose healthy options (like chickpeas) to avoid adding inches to your waistline.

7. Avoid fatty evening meals.
Don’t eat fatty foods within three hours of bedtime. These foods can be hard to digest, making it more difficult to fall asleep (and stay asleep). If you’re hungry after a light dinner, it’s better to eat a small snack.

8. Keep daytime naps under 20 minutes.
If you’ve been struggling to sleep enough at night, you may be compensating with naps during the day. Naps can be a helpful supplement, but if they’re longer than 20 minutes, you may be sabotaging your nighttime rest.


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