Sleep isn’t just a nice reprieve from the world, it’s a requirement for life. In fact, you can die of sleep deprivation in just 10 days – much less time than it takes to die of food deprivation (14 days). And while you might think it would be nice to live like a giraffe, who only needs 1.9 hours of sleep per day, the hours you spend sleeping are some of the most productive hours of your day.
According to The Better Sleep Council, the hours you spend sleeping are the hours your body rest, recuperates and assimilates experiences into memories. Without sleep, your body isn’t able to manage hormone release the way it’s supposed to, which can lead to imbalances. If you’re exercising regularly, your sleeping hours are when your cells repair and rebuild, making your efforts pay off.
And the thing is, most Americans know they need more sleep – and they may even know how to prioritize sleep – they just aren’t doing it. If this sounds like you, we’ve got you covered. We turned to the experts for tips on how to get better sleep tonight.
1. Put up black out curtains
Your room needs to be comfortable and dark in order to encourage deep sleep. Dr. Narayan Verma, MD, a board-certified sleep specialist and neurologist out of metro Detroit, Michigan, suggests “If the room is too bright, blackout curtains or an eye mask may help.”
2. Check your sleep position
Dr. Jonathan Currier, a practicing chiropractic physician in the St. Louis Metro area who also holds a Masters Degree in Sports Science and Rehabilitation, emphasizes the importance of sleep position on the spine, muscles and joints. “Laying on the back is the best position for the spine and body and reduces the pressure to the joints and muscles more than any other position. While laying on your back, try putting a regular sized pillow under neath your knees. This slight adjustment to your sleeping posture relieves tension to the low back.
If laying on your back is impossible (due to sleep apnea or other conditions) then the side-lying posture is the next best choice. Avoid sleeping on your stomach at all costs!”
3. Write it out
If your mind is constantly wandering to all the things you have to do the next day, you’re going to have a hard time relaxing enough to fall asleep. Chris Delaney, a hypnotherapist and stress coach, says “The thought of having to do A, B and C can keep you turning in your bed for hours. To counter this, write a list of the task you need to complete. Number the task in order of importance and if required record what resources you will require. This preparation will give you back the feeling of control, reducing stress allowing a nice night’s sleep.”
4. Take a magnesium supplement
Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, a medical doctor and nutrition expert, points out that magnesium deficiencies can play a key role in stress and excitability which can have a negative effect on sleep. “Feelings of nervousness, irritability and being unable to relax affect one’s ability to sleep and are signs of needing magnesium. These feelings which are generally stress related have a biological effect which involves the influx of calcium into cells, resulting in a temporary, drastic change in the cells’ internal magnesium-to-calcium ratio. Normal cells at rest contain 10,000 times more magnesium than calcium. If the amount of cellular magnesium falls however, calcium flows into the cell when NOT required. Such an imbalance, puts the cell into a hyperactive state leading to nervousness, inability to relax and a hard time falling asleep.” Dr. Dean suggests counteracting these effects with magnesium citrate powder, which is one of the most bio-available forms. Simply take it with hot or cold water shortly before bed.
5. Institute a family nighttime routine
If you have kids, you know that corralling everyone into their respective bedrooms at night can be a task. Not to mention all the ways kids try to avoid sleep – one more glass of water? one more story? monsters under the bed? If your kids’ sleep habits are affecting your own, try to institute a more structured bedtime routine for the whole family. Turn off electronics earlier in the evening, dim the lights, change into PJs and enjoy a cup of herbal tea with honey. Try a plan like this for a couple of weeks, but if Sally and Johnny are still waking you up a few times a night, Cate McKee, a certified pediatric sleep coach, says “Hire a coach. Most often the problem doesn’t just go away. Seek the advice of a professional, certified individual who can dispel myths and create a custom plan that best fits your child’s needs and the family’s needs.”
6. Set up an appointment… for your loved one
Dr. Sabrina Magid-Katz, a world renowned sleep expert who lectures to dental societies about screening for Sleep Apnea, points out that the individuals who often have the hardest time getting a good night’s sleep are the spouses or partners of a snorer. “While snoring can be disruptive or even funny at times, it may the sign of a serious medical problem called Obstructive Sleep Apnea in which the airway becomes blocked and the person stops breathing for periods at a time. Some people are so severe that they stop breathing for ten seconds or longer, 100 times an hour. The medical implications can range anywhere from heart attacks and strokes, to difficulty controlling blood sugar or blood pressure, to depression and impotence. My best tip for better sleep? Get your loved one screened, diagnosed, and treated as necessary so that you can not only sleep in quiet, but rest at ease.”
7. Block out harsh light
All those screens surrounding you – your TV, phone, computer, tablet – the light they emit mimics the harsh light of the sun, which stimulates arousal and keeps you awake. Kati Rodzon, who has a Ph.D. in Cognition and has performed several sleep studies, suggests using products like f.lux or blue tint sunglasses to take harsh light and change it to a less harsh light that’s blue in tint.
8. Don’t try to sleep
Lying in bed stressing out about not falling asleep will only serve to prevent you from sleeping. If sleep doesn’t seem to be coming naturally, don’t actively try to fall asleep. Jon Rhodes, a clinical hypnotherapist from the UK says, “To calm your mind, imagine floating away to a place that you find relaxing. It could be a beach or a garden, for example. Imagine enjoying this space as clearly as you can, using all your senses like smell, touch, even taste. You can chose to be alone or with people you want to be there. Your environment is entirely up to you. Just make sure it is relaxing and enjoyable. This is a meditative exercise which will benefit you in a way similar to sleep. Also, because you no longer need to worry about getting to sleep, most people drift off into a nice relaxing sleep.”
9. Pee before bed
It may seem like a no-brainer, but there’s nothing worse than starting to drift off into a nice slumber, only to be woken by the sudden urge to pee. Dr. Bola Oyeyipo, a medical doctor and co-founder at Healthgist.com, suggests always making a pit stop in the bathroom before lying down for the night.