According to sleep researchers, the average adult needs between seven to nine hours of sleep to function well. I realize this must mean we’re all malfunctioning because, really, who gets that much sleep? For people who have children, go to school, or have more than one job, those hours may be occupied with obligations, forcing them to stay up late and wake before the sun is up.
Fortunately, the quality of your sleep (not just the quantity) plays a role in how rested you feel the next day. We must create good habits around bedtime, in order to make the best of what little time we have.
Here are a few tips most experts seem to agree on:
Schedule: we’re creatures of habit. Going to bed at the same time every night will most likely get you used to a set sleep schedule. Set aside a realistic number of hours for sleeping and control your naps.
La cama: reserve the bed for sleep and sex. Don’t use it to play with your kids, or read a book. Such things confuse your body. If you use the bed exclusively for sleep and sex, your body will be ready for both once you are under the covers. This may also improve your love life.
Turn the TV off: preferably, keep it out of the room. Computer and television screens, among other artificial lights, emit a type of radiation that may inhibit the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) in your body and prevent you from feeling sleepy, even if you are.
Regulate the lights: we’re diurnal animals. Our levels of melatonin decrease when we’re in sunlight, and increase in the dark. Go for walks during your workday to get some sunlight; and as bedtime approaches dim the house lights to set the family mood to “sleepy”.
Substances: keep your body clean. Avoid caffeine six hours prior to bedtime. Don’t smoke: nicotine produces alertness. Even alcohol, which at first makes you sleepy, will wake you up randomly due to high levels of sugar in your blood. Don’t eat too late (it also makes you gain weight) or drink too many liquids before bed (to avoid using the bathroom at night).
Develop a ritual: doing the same every night before bedtime will allow your mind to put the day worries aside, getting you in “sleep mode.” For example: brush your teeth, change into pj’s, put some slow music on, meditate, pray or simply lay down in the dark. Follow the same sequence daily for your mind and body to habituate.
Keep in mind that habits take at least a week to develop and some hard work, especially at the beginning. However, given the health benefits of a good night’s of sleep it is very important that you invest your time and effort in improving your life, one night at a time.