You probably know that you need to sleep at least seven hours a night for well-being. Perhaps you’re among the many Americans, roughly a third, who report getting six hours of shut-eye — or even less. That can seriously hurt your health. Quality matters, too. Here’s how the National Sleep Foundation characterizes the best night’s sleep:
– Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less.
– Sleeping for at least 85 percent of your time in bed.
– Waking up only once per night for 20 minutes or less.
If you need help with shut-eye, try these sleep hygiene tips:
Set the scene: Think about how your environment can soothe or stimulate your senses. Your bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet, so consider blackout shades; a fan, white-noise machine or noise-buffering app; and lower thermostat settings at night. Reserve your bedroom for sleep, not work — so no laptops, tablets or smartphones, whose blue light also interferes with your sleep cycle.
Stick to a schedule: “Catching up” on sleep on the weekend is a myth. Sleeping in will only make you groggier. Instead, keep a regular bedtime and wake-up time all week.
Skip the snooze button: Ten more minutes! Why not? Here’s why not: Dropping back off after hitting snooze disrupts your brain-wave patterns and reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is crucial to learning and memory function.
Sip wisely: If you find yourself unable to drop off, caffeine may be the culprit. Stop drinking coffee, tea or caffeinated soda four to six hours before bedtime.
Get moving: Regular exercise can improve nighttime sleep and reduce daytime drowsiness. Even a daily, brisk walk for ten minutes can do the trick. Just confine vigorous exercise to earlier hours, since working out revs up your metabolism and promotes wakefulness.
When to seek medical attention
Short-term issues like high stress, dietary changes or seasonal shifts can sometimes disturb normal sleep patterns. But if these tips don’t help you or if sleep trouble doesn’t improve after a few weeks or keeps returning, consider visiting a sleep specialist. These physicians diagnose the causes of sleep problems and can provide treatment.
Sleep more soundly
Click here to find a sleep specialist.
Should you sleep on your side?
Side sleeping may be healthier for your brain than sleeping on your back or stomach, according to a 2015 study in The Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers explain that during sleep, a drainage system in the brain helps remove “waste,” including proteins that are implicated in neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. They observed that side-sleeping rats experienced more efficient drainage of these wastes or neurological byproducts than those who slept in other positions.