Without proper sleep, we can become moody and irritable, and often see a decline in our cognitive functioning. But above the annoyance of daytime drowsiness, there are many health concerns we cannot see.
Sleep is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
If sleep is a concern in your life, try these five tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.
1. Steer clear of sleeping pills.
Studies show that sleeping pills are not as effective as you may think. On average, sleeping pills help people fall asleep about eight to 20 minutes faster than without them, but add less than 35 minutes to nightly sleep. Plus, they can have side effects and risks associated with long-term use. Your best bet is to tackle poor sleep habits naturally, and consult your doctor if you suspect a bigger health concern.
2. Embrace your perfect sleep position.
A better sleep position can lead to steady sleep, improved breathing and pain relief. While we can't always choose the way we sleep, small tweaks can make a big difference. Do you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux? Try sleeping on your side. Are you a chronic snorer? Try your stomach. Do you suffer from neck or back pain? Sleeping on your back may do the trick.
3. Pick the right pillow.
Your pillow should provide neck support between your head and chest, minimizing pain and ensuring an open airway during sleep. But it should also fit your personal sleeping style, as the wrong pillow could have you tossing and turning all night. From down-filled to firm foams, try a variety of styles before you settle on one — and always toss it out after 18 months.
4. Don’t hit snooze.
Hitting the snooze button interrupts the natural waking process for both your body and mind, and replaces needed z's with a series of poor-quality sleep periods. Your best bet is giving yourself a set schedule. Your body has a natural inclination to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, so a routine can help your body fall asleep quicker and wake up more easily on its own.
5. Try these sleep-friendly bedtime snacks.
Eating too much before bedtime can keep you awake. But snacking moderately on the right foods can help you get a restful night. Our four favorites are:
- Cherries — for their natural melatonin
- Nuts — for their sleep-promoting tryptophan and magnesium
- Whole grains — for their complex carbohydrates
- Dairy — for a healthy dose of calcium