Follow this advice to get better rest and wake up refreshed.
By Ellen Mazo and the Editors of Prevention
Follow these tips to help ensure that your time between the sheets leaves you feeling refreshed and renewed:
Make breakfast your heaviest meal of the day.
Digesting food takes energy, so if you eat a heavy meal late in the day, your body will have to work hard to digest it while you’re trying to go to sleep. Many people sleep better if they have protein at breakfast and lunch, and a light dinner with some carbohydrates.
Cut back on the sleep robbers.
Cut out caffeine after 2 p.m., and refrain from drinking alcohol within three hours of bedtime. You may become drowsy after a couple of glasses of wine, but too much alcohol will make you wake up frequently during the night. In addition, although coffee is the most obvious source of caffeine, don’t forget that there’s also caffeine in colas, chocolate, tea, and some medications.
Go toward the light.
Get outside when it’s sunny, or at least turn on the lights at home in the morning. This will help you reset your awake-sleep cycle.
Drink like a fish.
Even mild dehydration—losing as little as 1/2 cup of body water—could turn into low-grade chronic fatigue. Drink eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water a day, and add four to six more glasses when you exercise. To prevent unnecessary trips to the bathroom at night, empty your bladder before going to sleep, and don’t drink more than 4 ounces within an hour of going to bed.
Exercise earlier in the day.
Regular exercise first energizes, then relaxes you. So if you start doing calisthenics or aerobics right before bed, nerve-stimulating hormones will be released and will raise your body’s core temperature, preventing you from falling asleep. Exercise—but do it earlier in the day.
Walk into sleep.
You don’t have to walk far to get sleep-enhancing benefits. People who walked at least six blocks a day at a normal pace were one-third less likely to have trouble sleeping, according to one study of more than 700 men and women. Those who picked up the pace had even better sleeping habits. You get the same benefits with walking that you’d get by taking sleep medication—but without the medication’s side effects, such as grogginess, increased snoring, risk of sleep apnea, and possible addiction.
Take a nap.
It’s okay to nap, especially if you didn’t sleep well last night. Research has found that people who nap for 15 minutes feel more alert and less sleepy, even after a bad night’s sleep.
Go to bed only when you’re sleepy.
If you can’t fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, get up and leave your bedroom. Go into the living room and read until you’re tired again. Or sit in a chair and think pleasant thoughts: a dream vacation, standing by a waterfall. This should help calm you so that you can return to bed and sleep.
Move the television out of your bedroom.
Your bed and bedroom are for sleep and sex. That’s it. No reading. No talking on the telephone. No worrying.
Create a sleep schedule and stick to it.
You may not be able to go to bed at the same time every night, but you can establish a regular wake-up time. Get up at the same time every morning, even on weekends.
Watch your nighttime posture.
For a restful night, try these strategies:
- Relieve lower-back pressure by putting a pillow under your knees. The pillow comfortably flexes your lower spine.
- Try a pillow made with down instead of a foam pillow. You want a pillow that is low enough to support your head without flexing your neck, to avoid neck and shoulder aches. Orthopedic pillows with a scooped-out hollow for your head help support the neck and can also be helpful, especially if you have chronic neck problems.
- Put enough blankets on your bed to stay warm. You may otherwise unconsciously curl up to keep warm, which can leave you with a sore back.
- Allow yourself enough room to be able to move your arms and legs and roll over during the night. This is a natural way to prevent your joints from getting stiff.
Take special measures when you’re on the night shift.
You weren’t designed to work the night shift, or rotating shifts, but you may have no choice. So, here are some tips for when you must work while everyone else is asleep:
Use bright lights to mimic daylight, to keep you awake.
Try to stay on the same shift, but if you must rotate, do it by the clock: from days to afternoons to nights.
If you can’t sleep when you get home in the morning, don’t force it. Wait till early afternoon when you have an energy dip.
Try an herbal soother.
Instead of sleeping pills, you might want to try valerian, an herb that can improve your quality of sleep without leaving you feeling groggy the next morning. You need to allow about 2 weeks for valerian to build up in your system. Try taking between 150 and 300 milligrams at bedtime as needed, but give yourself a break now and then to allow your sleep patterns to develop without help. You don’t have to buy the more expensive valerian supplements that have other ingredients or herbs.