Here are a few ways to improve your sleep quality in spite of a busy lifestyle:
- SET A SCHEDULE: Set a time for BOTH going to bed AND getting up in the morning, preferably at the same times each day—even on weekends.
- EXERCISE: Try to get 20-30 minutes of exercise every day (but NOT just prior to bedtime). FIRST thing in the morning is often the best time—before we can “talk” ourselves out of it!
- AVOID CAFFEINE, NICOTINE, & ALCOHOL: These stimulate the brain and keep us awake. Caffeine sources include coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, non-herbal teas, diet drugs, and some pain relievers. Smoking promotes light sleep and early morning waking from nicotine withdrawal. Alcohol also interferes with deep sleep and REM sleep—especially when consumed before bedtime!
- RELAX BEFORE BED: Take a warm bath, read (but not an action-packed book), and/or perform relaxation exercises before bedtime, as studies have demonstrated these to help one fall asleep.
- SLEEP UNTIL SUNRISE: Try to wake up with the sun or turn on very bright lights in the morning. This helps “set” the body’s biological clock and exposure to morning sunlight can help people fall asleep later that night.
- GET OUT OF BED: If you can’t sleep, do something like read, watch TV, or listen to music until you feel tired. Anxiety about NOT being able to sleep contributes to insomnia!
- CONTROL ROOM TEMPERATURE: Keep the temperature comfortable. If the room is either too hot or too cold, it may prevent you from both falling asleep and also reaching deep, restful sleep when you do finally clock out.
- SLEEP AIDS: These can include sleep supplements such as valerian root, melatonin, chamomile tea, and/or kava starting with a low dose and gradually increase it as needed.
Other “lifestyle” tips on getting a higher quality sleep include: 1) keep noise and light to a minimum (use earplugs, window shades, or an eye mask); 2) avoid large meals two hours before bedtime; 3) avoid afternoon naps; 4) stop mentally taxing tasks one hour pre-bedtime; and 5) avoid emotional discussions/thoughts right before bedtime.
This list is certainly finite and could go on much longer. The BOTTOM LINE is that if you need help, your doctor of chiropractic can offer a LOT of benefits and when necessary, can work with primary care physicians and sleep specialists—all in the quest of getting you to sleep!