4 Simple Ways to Sleep Better Every Night

You can start by putting your smart phone away
a couple sleeping peacefully in bed at night

Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep also spells trouble for your waking hours.  

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At night you lie in bed, watching the clock and stressing out that you will have to get up in a few hours. During the day, you’re exhausted, sleepy and unfocused.

You’re not alone. At least 40 million Americans suffer each year from sleep disorders such as apnea, narcolepsy or restless leg syndrome, says the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Another 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems.

The amount of sleep each person needs depends on many factors, including age. For most adults, the best amount of sleep is seven to eight hours a night, the NIH says. Some people, though, may need as few as five hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep, the NIH says. 

If you are sleep-deprived for  a long period of time, talk to your doctor.  Over time, loss of sleep can affect your overall health and well being. Chronic sleep problems also may indicate an underlying medical problem.

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If you’re experiencing mild, occasional problems with sleep, try these simple strategies from sleep expert Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM.

1. Treat getting enough sleep as if it is as important as taking a medicine.

With all the demands on our time every day, you might put a good night’s rest at the bottom of your priority list. But Dr. Drerup says we need to schedule adequate time for sleep.

 “It’s very easy to stay up late and burn the candle at both ends,” she says. “However, when you do that, you quickly run into a problem of dealing with sleep deprivation.”

2. Keep a consistent wake time.

Wake up at the same time every day, including weekends or days off.  Waking at the same time every day will actually help you to sleep better at night. A fixed wake time helps to build a strong desire for sleep throughout wakefulness. This sleep drive gradually builds, and shortening it by sleeping in will make it harder to fall asleep the next night. Sleeping in on the weekend makes it much more difficult to wake up earlier on Monday morning.  

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It also is important, Dr. Drerup says, to do some relaxing activity such as taking a warm bath or reading a book before bedtime. By making these activities part of your bedtime ritual, you can train yourself to associate these activities with sleep. This association will help you to move more easily into slumber.

3. Put away the smart phones and tablets.

Electronic devices keep your mind humming — and far from the relaxed state you need to achieve before bedtime. Dr. Drerup advises it’s a good idea to put away devices like smart phones and tablets at least one hour before bed time.

4. If you do wake up during the night, avoid looking at the clock.

“The minute you look at that time it’s not just looking at one number,” Dr. Drerup says. “You start mental calculations, you think about how long it’s been since you’ve been in bed and what you have to do the next day. And before you know it, a long time has passed and that cuts into your sleep time.”

The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can contribute to insomnia. Instead of clock-watching and worrying, get out of  bed after about 20 minutes. Do something relaxing like reading, watching television, or listening to music until you feel drowsy. 

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