Feeling crabby lately? It could be you aren’t getting enough sleep. Although the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night, that number could be hard to come by if you factor in work, taking care of children and managing a household.
Then there are the unexpected challenges that can keep you up at night financial worries, layoffs, illness or relationship issues.
Compounding the problem is the fact that if you don’t get the rest you need, you’ll find it even harder to deal with the stresses causing your sleep problems to begin with.
Grumpiness isn’t the only result of sleep deprivation. Getting too little sleep impairs memory, reaction time and alertness. Tired people are less productive at work, less patient with others and less interactive in relationships.
Sleep deprivation can also be dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 100,000 crashes each year are due to drivers falling asleep at the wheel.
Try one or two of the following tips or a combination until you have enough quality sleep to feel alert and well-rested. If these tips don’t work, see your doctor. You could have a sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea, that requires medical attention.
1. Stick to a schedule, and don’t sleep late on weekends. If you sleep late on Saturday and Sunday morning, you’ll get Sunday night insomnia. Instead, go to bed and get up at about the same time every day.
2. Don’t eat or drink a lot before bedtime. Eat a light dinner about two hours before sleeping. If you drink too much liquid before sleeping, you’ll wake up repeatedly in the night for trips to the bathroom.
3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. They’re addictive stimulants and keep you awake. Smokers often experience withdrawal symptoms at night, and smoking in bed can be dangerous. Caffeine should be avoided for eight hours before your desired bedtime.
4. Exercise. If you’re trying to sleep better, the best time to exercise is in the afternoon. A program of regular physical activity enhances the quality of nocturnal sleep.
5. A slightly cool room is ideal for sleeping. This mimics your internal temperature drop during sleep, so turn off the heat and save on fuel bills.
Use a dehumidifier if you’re bothered by moist air. Use a humidifier if you’re bothered by dry air. Signs and symptoms of dry air irritation include a sore throat, nosebleeds and a dry throat.
6. Sleep primarily at night. Daytime naps steal hours from nighttime slumber. Limit daytime sleep to less than one hour, no later than 3 p.m.
If you work nights, keep your window coverings closed so that sunlight, which interferes with the body’s internal clock, doesn’t interrupt your sleep.
If you have a day job and sleep at night, but you still have trouble waking up, leave the window coverings open and let the sunlight wake you up.
7. Keep it quiet. Silence is more conducive to sleep. Turn off the radio and TV. Use earplugs or a fan or some other source of constant, soothing, background noise to mask sounds you can’t control, such as a busy street, trains, airplanes or even a snoring partner. Double-pane windows and heavy curtains also muffle outside noise.
8. Make your bed. “A good bed is subjective and different for each person. Make sure you have a bed that is comfortable and offers orthopedic comfort,” says Dr. Shepard.
If you share your bed, make sure there’s enough room for two. Children and pets are often disruptive, so you may need to set limits on how often they sleep in your bed with you.
9. Soak and sack out. Taking a hot shower or bath before bed helps bring on sleep because they can relax tense muscles.
10. Don’t rely on sleeping pills. Check with your doctor before using sleeping pills. Doctors generally recommend using sleeping pills for up to four weeks. Make sure the pills won’t interact with other medications or with an existing medical condition. If you do take a sleep medication, reduce the dosage gradually when you want to quit.
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