Last week we talked about the benefits of better sleep, which is great and all, but how do you actually do it? How do you start getting better sleep today and thus reap the rewards? I have 12 simple, straight-forward tips to get you sleeping better starting tonight!
Don’t drink caffeine after midday. If you need caffeine after midday, then you’re probably sleep deprived. Reign in the caffeine early and you’ll get to sleep sooner, solving the real problem.
Exercise. Exercise gives you more energy during the days – revving up your metabolism but also helps you sleep better at night.
Let’s get it on. Sex has been shown in studies to improve how quickly you go to sleep and your sleep quality…not to mention improving your relationship!
Keep it cool. Keep your room temperature around 69 degrees if possible. Studies have shown this is an optimal temperature for sleep. What feels better than slipping under a good blanket in a cool room?! Pretty much nothing!
Cave dark. I have a friend who uses the term cave dark and I like it. It means that it's dark enough that you can’t even see your hand in front of you. Get your room cave dark. Get thick curtains. Turn that bright alarm clock away from you. Your skin can sense light. The darker it is in your room, the more your body and brain will be willing to sleep.
Get a sleep study. Do you snore? Of course not! That’s what my patients say when I ask them…that’s why I don’t ask them – I ask their spouse who’ll say, ‘absolutely! He sounds like a good set of jake brakes rolling in to a small town! I roll him over at least 20 times a night!’ News flash – you may have sleep apnea. It’s very common and I could almost guarantee that if you get tested and implement a sleep plan, you’ll sleep better and have more energy.
Stay out of the bathroom. How many times a night do you get up to go use the restroom? If it’s more than once, you probably need to have it checked out by a healthcare provider. Nighttime bathroom breaks can sabotage quality sleep.
No TV in the bedroom. The bedroom is for cuddling, sex, and sleeping. You’ll sleep better immediately if you remove the television.
Unplug. Don’t watch TV or peruse your phone for at least an hour before bed. The blue light emitted from these tricks your body in to not realizing it’s dark and you need to go to bed. Some phones can be set to remove the blue light once it gets dark – there are also apps (like Unblue) that can remove the blue light at set times.
Treat yourself. You spend ~1/3 of your life sleeping. Don’t skimp on stuff like pillows, mattresses and bed sheets! It’s well worth the extra money to get what works best for you!
Sleep aids. I still recommend exercise or sex as two of the best sleep aids but, if you must have something, there are several over-the-counter meds on the market that can help, including melatonin, tryptophan, and valerian to name a few. Follow label instructions, but a good ballpark recommendation is to take these an hour before you expect to sleep.
Get 1 more hour of sleep. This is my best rubber meets the road advice. Try to sleep 1 more hour each night. Realize that this usually means getting in bed earlier because most of us don’t have the luxury of sleeping one hour later than we usually do.
There you have it. 12 easy places to start – now you have no excuse! Sleep better and you’ll flat out feel better. I do. Now, granted, I fail at many of these any given night but I’m at least making an attempt. It does take a little discipline, but, once you start feeling the benefits, you’ll feel encouraged and empowered to maintain these changes. If 12 is too much, pick 3 of these to implement but keep this article because after you master those 3, you can move on to some others. Smart watches these days are getting better and better at giving you feedback on the quality of your sleep, so try one out. See if you can tell a difference in your sleep stats before and after implementing some of these tricks. That’s it! So, in classic southern style, I bid you farewell with this: Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite!
Dr. Thomas is a board-certified physician who operates Complete Health Integrative Wellness Clinic and Thomas Urology Clinic in Starkville, Mississippi.
This newspaper column is for informational purposes only and is, under no circumstances, intended to constitute medical advice or to create or continue a physician-patient relationship. If you have a medical emergency, you should immediately seek care from your nearest emergency room, and if you have specific health questions, you should consult your own physician.