Getting a Healthy, Good Night's Sleep

We put the kids to bed in this article. But what about your own 40 winks? Is there room for improvement?

If you feel you're not getting adequate sleep (either in quantity, quality or in both), you're not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 35% of Americans stated in a survey that they get less than seven hours of sleep in a given 24-hour period. Meanwhile, nearly half (48%) reported snoring, while a disturbing 37.9% said they have fallen asleep during the day.

Lack of good, quality sleep is a nationwide and, to an extent, global problem. Life seems to get in the way of being able to "turn ourselves off" at night and fall into a deep and productive sleep.

Remember that sleep is important to your overall health in a variety of ways. Sleep has been linked to sufficient (or in the case of too little sleep, insufficient) brain functioning, including memory, and good sleep is vital to awareness, response time and cell recovery. It is also linked to the cardiovascular system.

Curl up and read on for the best ways to get healthy and productive shut-eye, tonight and every night.

Make Your Bedroom a Haven

You've heard this phrase before ("a haven"). What does it mean? In the case of your bedroom - and the health of your sleep - it means your bedroom should be an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the day.

  • Use organic bedding and keep it clean to reduce mites and irritants that could disturb your sleep.
  • Use soft lighting - NO fluorescent lighting or very bright bulbs.
  • Take ALL electronics out of your bedroom except the absolute essentials.
  • Turn your phone off and leave it outside the bedroom; it's too tempting to check it when you're tossing and turning.
  • If your bedroom is too dry, invest in a good humidifier and make sure to clean it regularly per the manufacturer's instructions.
  • DON'T make your bedroom too warm. Your bedroom should be no higher than 70 degrees and ideally, approximately 68 degrees (F). Layer blankets instead of raising the heat, and simply add or remove them if you wake up hot or chilly.

Stop the Night Eating

A small snack near bedtime is fine - but try not to eat a significant amount of food before bedtime. It sounds like an old wive's tale, but going to sleep on a churning stomach really can disturb your sleep.

If you really need a snack before bedtime, try for something that contains tryptophan, like a turkey slice with cheese or an ounce of almonds. A half-cup of yogurt is another good, mild pre-bed snack.

Cut Down on Alcohol

Alcohol may put you to sleep initially, but it produces less healthy, less productive sleep. Minimize your alcohol intake and try not to drink two hours before bedtime.

If you do drink, follow with water. Alcohol ultimately dehydrates you and this condition can definitely disturb sleep.

Bring the Lights Down

Lower lighting in your house one hour before bedtime if possible. Your body works on a set of rhythms based on a diurnal (night/day) system. It expects light to be lowered as evening deepens and sleep time approaches. But in today's world, we're brightly lit (and hooked up to electronics) until our heads hit the pillow and for many of us, even after that as we lie back and tap away at our phones.

This makes sleep difficult for many people, as there is no longer any clear "dividing line" between light and day.

Lower the lights and if you can bear it, ditch ALL electronics (yes, all!) except one reading light or some soft music an hour before it's time to cash it in. Quietly read a book, meditate or listen to your music to wind down, then go curl up in bed.

Have a Regular Bedtime

We recommend this for kids, but adults need it too. Even if at first (for days or perhaps weeks) you don't cork right off at your "established" bedtime, eventually your body will respond to cues and become sleepy at a certain time of night...IF you make it a VERY regular thing.

Don't veer from this. Don't stay up later on weekends, if possible. During this establishment period, you will want to hit the hay at the same time every single night. Do this for at least 21 days, but ideally longer.

You should find that eventually, the cues cause your body to slow down and relax quickly into sleep at the time you want it to.

Enjoy, and 'night, sleepyhead!