Tips for a Better Night's Sleep

There's nothing quite like getting a good night's sleep. When we crawl into bed and sleep for seven or eight uninterrupted hours, we tend to wake up feeling refreshed, energetic and ready to face the day. But if you're one of the thousands of people who wake up at 2 am and can't fall back asleep, or you simply can't get to sleep at all, help is at hand! Sleep specialists have identified concrete steps you can take - known as 'sleep hygiene' - to get a good night's sleep, even if you have jet lag, insomnia, or graveyard shifts at work.

Try these ten healthy sleep habits and turn your restless nights into peaceful slumber:

1. Choose the right sheets.

Just as certain clothing feels good against your skin, bedding material has similar power and can greatly affect your quality of sleep. Some fabrics are cooler than others; synthetics tend to trap heat and can make sleeping uncomfortable. Good quality cotton like Egyptian and Pima gets rave reviews. Get hot at night? Choose moisture-wicking sheets for coolness.

Plus:

  • Wash and soften new sheets before you use them, as irritants can get into the packaging. Clean your sheets every seven to ten days.

  • If you have sensitive skin, choose detergents free from perfumes and dyes. Look for the OEKO-TEX certification, which ensures no toxic chemicals were used during manufacturing.
  • Get seasonal. Use jersey or cotton flannel in the winter and lighter bedding in the summer.
  • Treat yourself to new bedding every 18 to 24 months; it just looks and feels better. Any fabric repeatedly washed in hot water will start to fade. Want a quick update? Buy some new pillowcases.

To address this issue, west elm offers exclusive SLEEPSMART Bedding, which adjusts to your body temperature as you sleep. Activated carbon from natural coconut shell fibers maintains your optimum body warmth, keeping you cool and comfortable, so you sleep deeper and wake up refreshed. The 80% cotton/20% performance fabric is breathable and moisture ready and the OEKO-TEX certification guarantees the bedding is healthy for the environment.

2. Create a sleep-inducing environment in your bedroom.

A quiet, cool and dark space helps promote peaceful sleep. Try to lessen the volume of outside noise, wear earplugs or use a 'white noise' appliance that promotes relaxation. Use blackout shades or heavy curtains to block out the light. Wear an eye mask to help you rest. Keep a cool temperature, between 60 and 75 degrees F and keep your room well-ventilated. Choose comfortable mattresses and pillows; most mattresses wear out after ten years.

If possible, keep electronics - including computers and televisions -out of the bedroom.

3. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and other chemicals before bed.

Keep your daily caffeine ritual for the morning. Caffeine is a stimulant that will keep you awake. Avoid caffeine found in coffee, tea, soda, chocolate and some pain medicine for four to six hours before bedtime.

Alcohol may help induce sleep, but after several hours it has the reverse effect and acts as a stimulant, making you wake up often during the night.

4. Establish a soothing, pre-sleep routine.

Transition from 'wake time' to 'sleep time' with easy, relaxing activities an hour or so before bed. Treat yourself to a bubble bath, watch something calm on television, read a book, or practice relaxation exercises, like visualization or deep breathing. Avoid stimulating actions, such as doing work or discussing emotional issues. Stressful activities increase cortisol (see #10 below), which keeps you awake. If you're beset with problems, try writing them down and then put the notebook away.

5. Go to sleep when you are truly tired.

Struggling hard to fall asleep is frustrating. If you turn off the lights but aren't sleeping after 20 minutes, get up, go into another room and do something relaxing; try listening to music or reading a magazine until you feel tired enough to go back to bed and fall asleep.

6. No watching the clock!

We tend to stare at the clock when we can't sleep, which increases stress and makes it that much harder to fall asleep. Turn your clock's face away from you. Cover it with a towel if you have to.

7. Be consistent.

Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day; this helps to set your body's 'internal clock' which will expect it to sleep at said time night after night. Stick to it, too, on weekends.

8. Go easy on your nighttime food intake.

Eat your evening meal several hours before you go to bed and avoid food that cause indigestion. Should you get hungry late at night, snack on foods that don't bother your sleep, such as dairy or carbohydrates. See what works for your own unique metabolism.

9. Balance your fluid intake.

Drink enough liquids at night, preferably water, to keep you from waking up thirsty, but not so close to bedtime that you get up midnight (more than once!) to go to the bathroom.

10. Watch when you exercise.

Though exercise can help you fall asleep and sleep soundly, it also stimulates the body to secrete cortisol, a stress hormone which activates your brain's alert mechanism. This is all well and good, unless you're trying to fall asleep! Try to work out earlier in the day, or to finish your exercise at least three hours before bedtime.

Try to incorporate some of these sleep hygiene tips into your daily and nighttime routines, and stick with them. You could very well find your sleep patterns improving and you begin to achieve consistent, uninterrupted, restful sleep.

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