Eight Simple Steps to A Better Night’s Sleep

hebgen_thumbBy Noelle Hebgen, RN, Director of Inpatient Behavioral Health at Southwest Behavioral Services

We have all been there. Lying in bed at night, exhausted from the day’s activities yet unable to turn our mind “off” and fall sleep. If this describes you, you are not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 75% of American adults report having at least one symptom that relates to difficulties sleeping. It is estimated that adults require 7-9 hours of sleep a night, teenagers 8-10 hours, school-age children 9-11 hours, and young children 11-14 hours of sleep a night. Younger people require more sleep to promote optimal growth and learning during critical periods of development.

When we lack sleep in order to keep up with our hectic, 24/7 lifestyles and world, we pay the price. Lack of sleep affects our body’s ability to learn and process information, it affects our overall health and may increase certain safety risks, and it can negatively impact our overall quality of life. The good news is that there are simple steps one can take to improve their quality of sleep and feel more rested and alert during the day.

Sleep hygiene practices can easily be incorporated into a person’s daily routine and have been shown to improve sleep patterns and daytime alertness. Consistent sleep hygiene practices may also help prevent the development of sleep disorders. Follow these simple steps to improve your sleep patterns and wake up feeling more rested and ready to take on your day.

  1. Maintain a regular wake and sleep pattern daily. Maintaining a consistent bed time and wake time seven days a week is like setting your body’s internal alarm clock and helps us recharge and rejuvenate for the next day.
  2. Avoid napping during the day. Napping disturbs the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle and napping too late in the day can lead to nighttime wakefulness.
  3. Regular exercise helps promote healthy sleep habits and relaxing activities, such as yoga, done before bed may help initiate sleep.
  4. Establish a bedtime routine. Dim the lights, practice deep breathing techniques, take a warm bath or shower. Whatever works for you to relax and unwind will help prepare your body for sleep.
  5. Associate your bed only with sleep activities. Avoid electronics, eating, and reading in bed. Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillow.
  6. Evaluate the environment. What is the temperature of the room? How about the lighting? Is there a TV on? The ideal environment has a temperature of 60-67 degrees, with dim lighting, and with little or no noise and distractions.
  7. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day. Excessive caffeine and nicotine can cause nighttime wakefulness and alcohol has been shown to disrupt the body’s natural sleep patterns.
  8. Avoid large meals close to bedtime. Large meals and spicy foods close to bedtime can cause indigestion and sleep disturbances. Ideally, your night time meal should be consumed 2-3 hours prior to bedtime. If you find yourself hungry near bedtime, try a light snack 45 minutes before you plan on going to sleep.

If you continue to have difficulties sleeping, talk to your doctor. Often, identifying the underlying cause of a sleep disturbance is the first step in getting the sleep you need.

The professionals at Southwest Behavioral Services are there to make life better by providing people of all ages individualized and professional emotional and mental health care services in a warm, supportive atmosphere. To learn more about the services offered through SBS, visit swbehavioral.org or call 608.348.3656 today.

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