Health Advocate Blog

Ten Steps to Better Sleep

Your sleep—or lack thereof—can have a big impact on your health, well-being, and overall quality of life.  Many American adults don’t regularly get the recommended amount of sleep, which is 7-8 hours of snoozing each night. And for many people, the sleep they do get isn’t particularly sound, leaving them feeling groggy upon waking up. In honor of Sleep Awareness Month, Health Advocate offers the below tips to help improve the quality of your sleep.

1. Get on schedule. The National Sleep Foundation recommends going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. This doesn’t just apply to Monday-Friday—try to follow this pattern on the weekends, too. According to the Mayo Clinic, this consistency reinforces your body’s sleep/wake cycle and promotes better sleep at night.  

2. Eat and drink smartly. Caffeine is a stimulant, and its effects can take hours to wear off—be sure not to consume any caffeinated drinks or foods close to bedtime. Try to finish eating 2-3 hours before your bedtime, and avoid going to bed hungry or overly full. Also, try to limit how much you drink before bedtime—this can help prevent middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom, which interrupt sleep.

3. Develop healthy bedtime rituals. Do the same activities before bed each night—this can help send your body signals that it’s time to wind down. Consider taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music, or other relaxing activities. Avoid watching TV or using the computer close to bedtime, as the Mayo Clinic notes that “screen time” may interfere with restful sleep.

4. Use your bed for two activities only. It’s best to use your bed only for sleep and intimacy. Avoid using it for activities such as reading and watching TV. Additionally, the National Sleep Foundation suggests it’s a good idea to remove all gadgets—TVs, computers, etc.—from the bedroom so they don’t distract you.

5. Make your bed comfortable. Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillow. If you share your bed with your spouse or partner, make sure that it’s an appropriate size to comfortably accommodate both of you.

6. Make your bedroom comfortable, too. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and relaxing. Make sure the temperature is not too hot or too cold.

7. Use light wisely. Welcome the sunlight in the morning, but avoid bright light in the evenings—keep your bedroom and other rooms dimmer close to bedtime. According to the national Sleep Foundation, this can help you keep your circadian rhythms on track.

8. Avoid napping. Long naps during the day can interfere with your ability to sleep at night. If you really need to nap, the Mayo Clinic recommends limiting yourself to only 10 to 30 minutes of daytime snoozing, preferably during mid-afternoon.

9. Exercise regularly. One of the many benefits of regular physical activity is that it promotes better sleep. It may help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. However, be sure to not exercise too close to bedtime, since it could make you too energized to fall asleep.

10. Reduce your stress level.  You may not sleep soundly if you have too much to do or too many things on your mind. Take steps to manage your stress in healthy ways, such as prioritizing and delegating tasks. And don’t forget to take a break now and then—taking a moment to just relax and breathe deeply can help reduce stress.

Many people occasionally have a poor night’s sleep or trouble getting to sleep, but if you frequently suffer sleep issues, contact your primary care physician. Your doctor can take steps to identify and treat underlying causes of sleep issues. Consider printing and filling out the National Sleep Foundation’s sleep diary, which can provide your doctor with valuable information about your lifestyle and sleeping habits. Don’t have a doctor lined up? If you are a Health Advocate member, give us a call! Your Personal Health Advocate can help you find an in-network doctor that meets your needs.