In college, I had terrible sleep habits. I’d stay up late to study, to hang out with friends, or to pick up the late shift. I always assumed I could make up for missing sleep on the weekends, but realistically, that never happened. Now that I’m out of college, I’m not even sure how I was able to function on less than six or seven hours of sleep a night! Sleep has become the reward for a long, full day, to get me ready to take on the next one.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is critical for a variety of health and wellness concerns. Sleep regulates mood, helps in learning and memory function, controls your stress levels, and directly affects weight and energy levels. Lack of sleep may cause weight gain, depression, and even accidents at work and on the road.
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, you should talk to your doctor about your daily habits to see what could be causing the problem. Below are some quick tips to help get better sleep at night.
- Maintain a regular schedule for sleep. As humans, we are creatures of habit. We function on an internal cycle called the “circadian clock” that balances the time we are asleep and awake. Establishing a regular time to get up in the morning and to go to sleep at night will strengthen your circadian rhythm. A strong circadian rhythm will enable you to fall asleep faster at night and get the most benefit from sleep.
- Create a calm and comfortable sleep environment. To help you fall asleep at night, you need to get rid of distractions in the bedroom. Control the room temperature so it’s not too hot or too cold, but matches the season. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. If you have a television in your room, keep it turned off, as the flickering lights can keep you from getting a deeper sleep.
- Avoid caffeine and other foods close to bedtime. Caffeine can stay in the blood stream for three to five hours, and even up to 12 hours! Even if you don’t think that caffeine will affect you, it can still change the quality of your sleep. Also, eating or drinking too much before bed can make you too uncomfortable to sleep. You’ll stay awake tossing and turning while your body is digesting. Try to finish eating two to three hours before bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime. Smoking before bed will make it more difficult to sleep, as nicotine is a stimulant. Additionally, as a safety precaution, never smoke in bed or when tired. Smoking cessation is a great way to improve how you sleep. Don’t drink too much alcohol close to bedtime as it disrupts sleep and leads to less rest.
Follow these tips for better sleep and talk to your doctor about your other sleep habits. For additional resources on fitness and healthy eating, which can directly affect your sleep habits, check out our health guides on our Health Center page!