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How do you sleep at night?

By Laura Keiley, RN

Quality sleep, and enough of it, is essential for good physical and mental health. Good sleep is as important to our health as a nutritious diet and regular exercise. Adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble sleeping, there are things you can do to help:

  • Set a sleep schedule. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day (even on weekends) can improve your ability to fall and stay asleep each night.
  • Turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed. Cell phones, tablets, television, video games, etc. stimulate the brain, and the light from screens can affect your internal body clock (circadian rhythm) and adversely affect your sleep. Watching certain content or news programs before bed can increase stress and worry, which can affect your ability to fall or stay asleep.
  • Practice a relaxing routine one hour before bed to calm your body and mind: take a warm bath, read a book, meditate, practice yoga, etc. Engaging in this routine at the same time each night can also train your body and mind to begin winding down and can help you fall asleep faster.
  • If you nap during the day and have trouble sleeping, cut down or eliminate naps to improve your chances of good sleep during the night.
  • Set your bedroom temperature between 62-67º Our bodies naturally cool down at night due to our internal body clock, and room temperatures that are too cold or too hot can make it difficult for us to maintain our optimal body temperature and can disrupt sleep.
  • Avoid tobacco and caffeine in the afternoon/evening. Both are stimulants that can keep you awake at night.
  • Avoid alcohol. Although alcohol can make you feel sleepy initially, it decreases the quality of sleep and causes you to wake more often during the night.
  • Avoid large meals within a few hours of bedtime. Eating a big meal before bed disrupts sleep as your body tries to digest all of that food during the time that you’re supposed to be asleep.
  • Avoid spicy or gas-forming foods food close to bedtime (garlic, chili peppers, cayenne, broccoli, cabbage, beans, etc.) These foods can cause heartburn, indigestion, or abdominal discomfort, which will interfere with sleep.
  • Eliminate sources of noise or use white noise or earplugs to block out distracting sounds that you cannot control.
  • Turn off all lights, use room-darkening shades and/or a sleep mask to block out light.
  • Try to make your bedroom as comfortable and inviting as possible – free of clutter and distractions.

If you try all of these things and still have trouble sleeping, be sure to consult your doctor or a sleep specialist for help. Improving your sleep will improve your health!

References:

Healthy Sleep Tips.  Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/healthy-sleep-tips

Laura Keiley is a Registered Nurse and Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at lk528@cornell.edu

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