How to Sleep Better

Sleep Like a Baby


Everyone should learn how to sleep better. Sleep is like a vacation day—there can never be enough. And just like those precious vacation days, many of us don’t, in fact, get enough. You may only get a few hours’ of shuteye a night and not feel deprived, but eventually you’ll start noticing a difference, whether it’s in your work performance or overall energy level.


With all of the demands on our time, sleep can often seem like a luxury. But it’s not—it’s a necessity. Getting the right amount of restful sleep is vital to tackling everything you need to accomplish in a given day. You might be getting the recommended 8 hours, but is it a deep, comfortable sleep? Tossing and turning during the night can leave you feeling sluggish in the morning, which is almost as bad as no sleep at all.

Many of us think that we can skimp on shuteye during the week and make up for it on the weekends. According to an article published earlier this year by Rodale Press, sleep isn’t another chore to add to your weekend “to do” list—hoarding it all and sleeping until noon on Saturday and Sunday isn’t healthy for you, either. Instead, try to get the right amount each and every night.

Causes of Sleeplessness

Sleeplessness can stem from many things:

  • Stress
  • Indigestion
  • Preexisting conditions like joint pain, which can make it difficult to lay comfortably
  • Reactions to medications
  • Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea

It’s normal to have a tough time falling asleep now and then, but if this lasts over several days, you may want to see a doctor to pinpoint the source of your sleeplessness. If left unchecked, chronic insomnia can trigger a variety of conditions:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Memory loss
  • Nodding off at inappropriate times (like during a presentation!)
  • Slower reflexes, which can make you a hazardous driver
  • Weight gain (although the verdict’s still out on this one)
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Lack of appetite

Lack of sleep can affect your work performance, as well. You might suddenly find your inbox too overwhelming to deal with so you ignore it, or that important client meeting completely slipped your mind. Or, you zone out during the staff meeting and start daydreaming rather than focusing on the tasks at hand. If your body is not operating at full power, your projects won’t be, either.

The first step to restoring sleeplessness is treating the source of the problem. Stress—particularly related to work, family, and money—top the list of what keeps us up the most, followed by chronic sleep-related conditions such as sleep apnea. With this ailment, the body has abnormal pauses in breathing for a few seconds or as long as a few minutes. This can happen several times an hour and can cause you to go from light to very deep sleep throughout the night. This can cause restlessness and make you feel tired and sluggish the next day.

Easy Tips for Better Sleep

There is no magic solution for getting a better night’s sleep—everyone has their own trick for getting the right amount of zzz’s. But generally, there are a few small changes you can make that might help:

  1. Avoid drinking caffeine or eating right before bed. If you feel full from that second piece of cheesecake or jittery from that last cup of coffee, you’ll have a hard time settling down and drifting off.
  2. Develop nightly relaxation rituals. Establishing a routine that helps you unwind will put you in a sleep-friendly mode. Listening to relaxing music or reading often does the trick.
  3. Avoid TV. Watching the news or disturbing images on TV before turning in might stick with you through the night and cause bad dreams or restless sleep. On the other hand, a movie with a gripping plot might keep you riveted long past your bedtime.
  4. Soak in the tub. Few things are as relaxing as a long soak in a bubble-filled tub. Whether you make this a nightly ritual or an occasional splurge for yourself, create a little oasis in your bathroom. Break out the candles, soft music, and perhaps a glass of wine.
  5. Exercise. Just as a workout can help to boost your energy level, when it comes time to turn in, you’ll find that sleep comes much easier. As an added bonus, staying in shape can help you fend off sleep-related ailments and help you get ready to face the next day.
  6. Meditate. Some swear by this practice every morning, but meditating every night can help to ease whatever stress you may have on a particular day. Taking a few moments to be still and quiet your mind takes tremendous discipline and self-control—when was the last time you were truly alone with your thoughts? And taking it a step further—when was the last time you emptied your mind of all thoughts and were just…still? Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not affiliated with any particular religion—it’s simply a practice of quieting your mind and reconnecting with yourself.

(Image courtesy of peasap under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 generic license.)


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Sara Hodon is a freelance writer, nonprofit program manager, and English instructor based in Northeast Pennsylvania.

Discussion

  1. Randy cram on the 22nd November

    Just getting reading over some things on twitter before I go to bed ontwitter and saw thispop up. Wonderful read, planning to implement some of these ideas to tomorrow as I have been having trouble falling asleep. Nice timing, ha!

  2. Wasim on the 22nd November

    Some say, readying a book /novel when your in bed, also helps.
    I guess it calms you down before you fall asleep. :)
    I assume it also depends on what your reading

    • Bryan Thompson on the 23rd November

      Yeah, I would imagine that horror/thriller novels might keep you up. :) I have heard it said that reading an hour of fiction each night helps to break apart the day a little better and shifts your mind before you fall asleep.

  3. Vivek Parmar on the 22nd November

    i work as a freelancer and most of the hours i’m unable to sleep properly but working effectively and at the same passion. Didn’t get distract from my projects and work but after sometime will find lonely and have no will power to perform good at work.
    help needed to work more while in those bad days..??

  4. wasim alrayes on the 22nd November

    Some say, readying a book /novel when your in bed, also helps.
    I guess it calms you down before you fall asleep. :)
    I assume it also depends on what your reading

  5. Bryan Thompson on the 23rd November

    In addition to reading fiction before bed, it can also help when you can’t sleep to read something very, very boring – for me, I’d read about grass, about geology, etc. It can get you back there.

    Also, if you can’t sleep, the worst thing you can do is to lie in bed awake. Get up and read that boring stuff. Drink some chamomile tea. Take a bath.

  6. Jill Christ on the 23rd November

    Great article! What are some nightly relaxation rituals you all have? Walk me through some?

  7. Gabriele Maidecchi on the 23rd November

    Sleeping is a matter often underestimated by most people, but it can impact your productivity so much it’s almost unbelievable.
    You really have to learn to relax a bit more and try to leave your problems for the next day, feeling “at rest” with yourself in order to really rest during the night.
    It’s easier said than done but if you don’t have regrets at the end of the day, you’ll fall asleep a lot easier.

  8. CarolW on the 24th November

    Was browsing twitter and found you via The Lady Bloggers. I really need some sleep. I seem to be awake every night. I’ve tried alot of the above apart from meditation. I’ll give that a go too. It’s probabaly related to my age! :) Thank you for the advise.

  9. Lutz on the 25th November

    I don’t have a problem falling asleep but I still do not sleep enough because I tend to go to bed to late considering the time I have to get up again.

    Reading the article, I think I should change my sleeping patterns to feel more relaxed and be more healthy.

  10. Razlan on the 25th November

    Of course, when all fails, nothing works better than a sleeping pill to restart your sleep engine. Never make it a habit, but it does help.

  11. Daquan Wright on the 27th January

    Sleep problems have been with me for a while, likely because I have no sleeping schedule.

    I had sleeping problems when I was working….I was always forgetting things or making mistakes.

  12. Greg on the 11th March

    Setting a wind down hour is a great suggestion for getting better sleep. At http://www.wakemate.com we have seen people increase their sleep quality by over 30% when they do not use any electronics an hour before bed. Another great tip is to map out your sleep cycles and see at what times you get the best quality sleep, so you can set your bedtime at the most effective time for your body’s individual rhythms. This is one thing WakeMate is great at helping with – check it out

  13. Emily on the 19th July

    It’s quite interesting about what you said regarding to exercise for better sleep. I will agree with it if the exercise is done at least about 5 -6 hours before going to bed, otherwise intense exercise before sleep may really influence one’s sleep. Read a good article about good sleep hygiene before, many good insights are provided there too. You may want to have a read too http://life.seven-seas.com/good-sleep-hygiene

  14. Batman on the 1st May

    I actually sleep better when I’m full.

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