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10 Quick Sleep Tips for Helping Stay Healthy

Daily quality sleep is an essential part of long-term mental and physical health and wellness. Want or need to improve your sleep? Find 10 quick sleep tips.

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by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Getting enough quality sleep is an essential part of wellness. Studies show the importance of quality sleep for our body and our mind -- and overall well-being. Continued sleep depravation can contribute to physical health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, blood vessel damage leading to increased heart disease risk, and a decrease in our immune system. Lack of sleep affects our brain in a number of ways, from affecting our ability to learn and retain information (cognitive functioning) to mood swings, increased irritability, and long-term mental health issues.

While there is no question about the importance of sleep, there is still some debate about how much sleep people need. On average, people are programmed for 16 hours of awake time and 8 hours of sleep -- but some folks can function quite well on only 6 hours of sleep while others need 10 hours. As people get older, our sleep patterns get lighter, often resulting in less sleep during the night unless other measures are taken. In terms of mental and physical health issues, studies seem to point to consistently getting 7 hours or more of sleep as the best.

Want -- or need -- to improve on your sleep (and improve your health and wellness)? Follow these 10 quick sleep tips.

1. Keep to a regular schedule. Probably the most important thing you can do to get a good night's sleep is to keep to a regular bedtime and morning schedule. While it may not be possible every night, try to go to bed about the same time to train your body's internal clock.

2. Strive for ideal sleeping conditions. Try to minimize noise, light, and excessive hot and cold temperatures where you sleep. Turn off lights and use window coverings to block out street noise and lights -- as well as light streaming in too early in the morning. Avoid interruptions from children or other guests. Consider ear plugs, eye covers, sound machine, and/or fan to assist in obtaining the perfect sleeping environment.

3. Avoid using alarm clocks. Most people have an internal alarm clock, which works best when we are getting enough sleep. Alarm clocks jar us from our sleeps and dream-states. Use the snooze alarm? Stop that behavior too because it does not offer any real health or sleep benefits.

4. Don't drink alcohol before bed. Interestingly, according to experts, alcohol is the top self-prescribed sleep aid. Unfortunately, while alcohol is a sedative that can promote sleep, alcohol-induced sleep commonly leads to awakening just a few hours later -- leading to difficulty in getting back to sleep.

5. Don't consume caffeine (or other drugs) before bed. In fact, if you can, avoid it entirely. For the rest of us, try to limit caffeine for at least six hours before you plan to go to bed -- otherwise you'll find yourself lying in bed with your mind (and sometimes your heart) racing.

6. Don't eat anything before bed. Eating before bed is bad because eating causes your digestive system to go into action. If you do eat, try and eat light -- and avoid spicy or fatty foods that can cause heartburn and other digestive ailments that might keep you awake. (And certainly don't eat in bed!)

7. Reduce/eliminate stresses. High levels of stress are the main cause of short-term sleep problems. Common stress factors include school- or job-related pressures; relationship, family, or marriage problems; money troubles; and serious illness or death to a loved one. While you usually can't eliminate stress, you can develop better coping techniques.

8. Get regular exercise. Working out is one of the best natural sleep aids. A good workout tires us out and helps prepare us for a good night's sleep. Just don't do your exercises too close to bedtime; the best times are morning or afternoon. Moderate exercises lasting 30 minutes at least four times a week will help you sleep better and give you more energy.

9. Don't work in bed. Whether job-related or school-related, performing mentally challenging work in bed will keep your mind racing -- even after you solve or complete the work. Plus, who wants to roll over in bed and get poked by a book or laptop. Keep your work in the den or office, not in the bedroom.

10. Take a nap. When all else fails and you've had to cut short your sleep -- or had some sleep issues that deprived you of sleep -- try to find time for a short nap during the day. Just remember that too much napping during the day can affect the quality of sleep during the night.

Final Thoughts on Sleeping Better

The National Sleep Foundation reports that 60 percent of adults have sleep problems a few nights a week or more. In addition, more than 40 percent of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month.

If you are truly serious about improving your health and wellness, then regular quality sleep must be part of your lifestyle. Using the tips in this article should help move you toward getting enough sleep so that you stay on a path of mental and physical wellness.

Obviously, there are things outside our control that we must contend with in attempting to get enough sleep. Traveling, especially to different time zones, can have a major impact on at least our short-term sleeping. As the world moves to a 24/7 schedule, people still need to realize that sleep is an essential element to success -- so turn off the computer and cellphone and get some sleep!

And smokers? Sorry to say that nicotine is a major cause of sleep issues -- so on top of all the other reasons to quit, getting better sleep is another benefit of quitting the nasty and dangerous habit.

Finally, there are times in life when you may struggle with getting a good night's sleep. If sleeplessness prevails, contact your doctor and see about getting a prescription to one of several non-addictive sleep-aids.

Some Additional Sleep Resources

  • American Insomnia Association
  • National Sleep Foundation
  • shuteye.com
  • Talk About Sleep
  • Interested in reprinting or republishing this article? Please refer to our Article Reprint Guidelines.

    Avid wellness guru Dr. Randall S. Hansen Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., is an avid bicyclist, adventurist, environmentalist, and student of wellness and photography, with a mission of empowering others to lead great lives. He is Founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites. Dr. Hansen is also the founder and caretaker of this site, EmpoweringRetreat.com, as well as founder of EmpoweringAdvice.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com or reach him by email at CEO(at)empoweringsites.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.


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