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Getting those Zzzs: Basic Sleep Hygiene

When you're sleeping poorly, more than one aspect of life is impacted. It's difficult to concentrate, mood becomes unstable, and your immune system takes a nosedive. The good news is: there are ways you can try to get some well-earned zzz’s.

Consider the following tips:

Create an evening ritual.

Having a night time ritual is one of the best ways you can train your body to recognize that it’s already time to sleep. The key is in consistently doing the routine until your mind associates your routine with bedtime.

You can, for example, preface your bedtime with a short meditation, e.g. listening to relaxing music and contemplating all the blessings you received, guided imagery or prayer. These habits can help in countering obsessive rumination that often keeps us up late at night. You can also come up with a ritual that’s unique, such kissing your kids good night, drinking a glass of milk, or reciting a particular poem.

Sleep and wake up at regular times.

Speaking of routines, it’s important as well to have good sleeping habits --- that is, you generally sleep at the same time every day. Doing so sets your body clock, and makes it automatic for you to want to fall asleep once evening hits. And exert the effort to wake up at the same time every day! Light, especially sunlight, hitting your eyes at the exact moment every morning will help stimulate hormones that will keep you alert and raring to go when you’re supposed to wake up.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening.

If you want to get a good night’s sleep, make sure that your body is ready to wind down as early as late afternoon. This means avoiding known stimulants, such as coffee, tea (yes, even soothing teas have caffeine) and caffeine-rich soda. Caffeine blocks adenosine, which is responsible for making you feel sleepy.

It also means avoiding alcohol. Even if alcohol is technically a depressant, its relaxing effect on the body is short-lived; alcohol leaves you in the less restorative phases of sleep. Thus, if you indulge in that red or beer in the evening, you’ll technically fall asleep --- but not very well!

Postpone the excitement until the next morning.

If you want to sleep well, avoid activities that will get you overly excited at bedtime, such as learning exciting news at work or watching a thrilling movie. These things just keep your mind working at a faster pace than it should, making it less likely for you to fall asleep. Make sure as well that you steer clear of anything that will give you a false sense of urgency.

Accepting work-related calls late in the evening, or ruminating about the next day’s events will just activate your brain, leaving you less disposed to want to go to bed. For best results, reserve at least one hour of slow activity before you go to bed to make sure you’re more likely to want to hit the sack.

Make sure you’re bedroom is conducive to sleeping.

If you want a good night’s rest, you have to make sure that your room is a place you perceive as a haven. For starters, make sure you associate your bed with rest, instead of stress; don’t work in your bed or make your bed a repository of your mess when the table is too full. Second, make sure that your room isn’t too hot or too cold to fall asleep. Sleeping needs a dip in your body temperature, so you may want to set your air conditioner or heater to about 65-67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ditch screen time before sleep

Darkness is a condition necessary for the production of melatonin, which facilitates sleep. Darkness is a natural cue that it's time to go to bed. Unfortunately, screentime can confuse our brains what time of the day it is. Too much screen time, especially before bed, can make it harder to fall asleep or disrupt sleep quality.

Set your phone, tablet, or laptop aside at least 2 hours before bed. If you want, you can also dim the lights a bit or turn the blinds. This will help in setting the helpful conditions for bed.

Consider natural sleeping aids.

With the guidance of your medical professional, consider if some medications, such as melatonin supplements, can support your sleeping habits. Most natural sleeping aids are non-addictive, and have little to no side effects. Theyhe are also more likely to put you into deep sleep, which will help in making you feel refreshed and recharged once you wake up.

Now if you have tried all these options, and sleep issues remain, consult a sleep specialist.

Happy naptime!

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