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» How to Sleep Better at Night

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According to estimates from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 60 million Americans deal with some degree of insomnia. Considering how important getting a good night’s rest is to your productivity, alertness, and ability to remember things, receiving too few hours of sleep a night can negatively impact every aspect of your life.

Fighting insomnia may seem like an impossible battle to win, but there are steps you can take that will help keep you from tossing and turning as the sun slowly starts to rise. Relearning good sleep habits can make a big difference when it comes to getting enough sleep at night. Here are a few tips that can help you sleep better.

Turn off the TV

Few things can be as disruptive to your sleep habits as watching TV in bed. While watching a little late night television might seem like a good way to unwind right before dosing off, watching TV in bed reinforces the idea that your bedroom isn’t just for sleeping. When dealing with insomnia, such small details can have a major impact on how easily you get to sleep at night.

To recondition how you think about the bedroom, you need to limit yourself to only two activities while in bed: sleep and sex. This means no more watching TV, reading, surfing the web, paying bills, or playing with your cell phone while in the bedroom. If you experience frequent bouts of insomnia, you should try turning off all TVs, computers, cell phones, and anything else that produces a blue light at least an hour before bedtime, as the short waves from blue light sources may interfere with sleep.

Avoid Napping

While a nap might seem like an obvious alternative when getting too little sleep at night, napping only makes matters worse when bedtime finally rolls back around. Any sleep you get within eight hours of bedtime can disrupt your attempts to get a good night’s rest. If you feel an overwhelming urge to dose off during the afternoon, try taking a short walk, drinking a glass of ice water, or talking with a friend on the phone. If you absolutely need to nod off, keep your nap brief, no longer than 20 minutes, and do it early in the day.

Don’t Stare

How many times have you found yourself staring down the clock as you toss and turn for hours? As you watch the hours slowly pass by, you begin to feel more anxious about how little time remains before you need to get up and begin your day. This added anxiety makes falling back to sleep more difficult and helps ensure you never do get the rest you need. Instead of staring down the clock, try placing it at an angel where you cannot see the time, and resist the urge to look when awakened in the middle of the night.

Get Comfortable

You need to feel comfortable when laying down in bed so you can relax and begin to drift way to dreamland. To achieve an optimal comfort level, you need to make sure your back and neck are both well supported when trying to sleep.

While mild lower back pain might not cause you to wake up at night, it can disrupt your sleep cycle. One solution to ensure a better night’s sleep is to place a pillow between your legs at night. This will help take pressure off of the lower back by realigning your hips, allowing you to sleep more comfortably. If you tend to sleep on your back, try placing the pillow under your knees at night.

You also need to make sure you sleep on a pillow that provides your neck with the proper support. If you tend to wakeup in the morning feeling tired and with a stiff neck, your pillow may be either too flat or too fat to give you the support you need. The ideal pillow should support your neck in a neutral position. Side sleepers need to find a pillow that aligns their noses with the center of the body. You should also try to avoid sleeping on your stomach, as that can twist the neck to a potentially uncomfortable angle.

Like Clockwork

Your alarm clock isn’t the only clock that tells your body when it’s time to get up and out of bed. Your internal clock can have just as great an impact on determining your sleep schedule. To keep your internal clock running correctly, you need to make a habit of getting to bed and getting up at the same time everyday, even on weekends.  Developing this type of routine will help your body and brain stay on a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

Timothy Lemke is a freelance health writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Greg Williams, a dentist in Tigard.

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