Guilderland, NY -Are you one of the millions of Americans who have trouble sleeping a few nights a week or more? A healthy amount of sleep is essential for our optimal physical and mental wellbeing. It improves alertness, productivity, and the ability to heal and recover. In general, adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night; but requirements do vary based on age, lifestyle and health. If you are feeling less than your best due to poor sleep habits, consider making changes to your nighttime routine. Follow these suggestions to improve your sleep hygiene practices:
1. Limit napping: When you take naps longer than 30 minutes, particularly in the afternoon, it decreases the amount of sleep you need at night. This is because our bodies require a certain amount of sleep within a 24 hours period, but no more. It may also make it hard to fall asleep fast, because napping diminishes “sleep debt” required for ease of sleep onset.
2. Establish a consistent bedtime routine. Ideally, you should go to bed and wake up at the same time (plus or minus 20 minutes) every day, even on weekends and on vacations. An hour before bedtime, turn off the mind stimulating electronic devices. Don’t watch TV in bed, instead, read in a chair, meditate, or take a shower or bath. An Epsom salt soak helps ease muscle tension and achy joints, and may help melt away stressors from the day.
3. Create an optimal sleeping environment. Your bedroom should be dark, quiet, and a cool, comfortable temperature- between 60-67 degrees is ideal. Turn off bright lights and the TV. If you are a “clock watcher”, make sure the clock is out of sight. Consider background “white noise” like a humidifier or fan. Lastly, (as hard as it may be) if your pets disturb your sleep, do not allow them on the bed.
4. Evaluate your mattress and pillows: Your bed should be comfortable and supportive. Most good quality mattresses have a life expectancy of about 10 years. Consider the age of your mattress if you have noticed a sudden onset of nighttime discomfort or poor sleep quality. Your pillow should keep your head and neck in a neutral position, regardless of your sleeping position.
5. If you are awake in bed for more than 10 minutes, get up! It is common to lie awake worrying about why you can’t fall asleep, or with a mind that won’t stop racing. When this happens, get out of bed, sit in a chair or on the floor in the dark, and let your mind race and ruminate until you feel tired- then go back to bed. Don’t turn on the TV, look at your phone, or use the Internet during this time.
6. Get regular exercise: 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day has shown to significantly improve sleep quality. In general, strenuous workouts should be avoided in the evening and close to bedtime because endorphins released during intense exercise may cause difficultly initiating sleep. Exercise at any time of the day that works best for you, but never at the expense of your sleep. Quality sleep is required to help you heal, recover, and get the most out of your exercise training.
Optimize your sleep hygiene practices and wake rested and ready to conquer the day, every day! As always, if you have questions about this article, we are here to help. Our consultations are always free. Please feel free to contact us at the Sports & Spinal Wellness Center at 518-869-3415. Visit our website for more information at www.sportsandspinalwellness.com. We would be happy to be a part of your health care team.