8 expert tips to avoid insomnia and improve sleep quality
Insomnia is a very common problem that has negative effects on your energy, mood, health, and ability to function during the day. Simple changes to your lifestyle and daily habits can put a stop to insomnia, without the need for medication.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, a United States’ board-certified anatomic pathologist (who graduated with the highest distinction at University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina), gave some helpful tips to overcome temporary insomnia and maximize the chance of getting a healthy night's sleep.
1. Make your bedroom a good-sleeping place, keeping it free of clutter and distractions. Make sure to have the right bed and mattress for your needs, since the wrong one can lead to musculoskeletal problems and sleep disturbances.
2. Use the bed only for sleeping, and not for watching TV, eating, working, or any other activity. The goal is to associate the bedroom with sleep alone, so that your brain gets a strong signal that it is time to nod off when you get in bed.
3. Establish a regular sleep schedule. Support your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, and if possible, on weekends too.
4. Avoid afternoon naps. As a matter of fact, napping during the day can make it more difficult to sleep at night. If you feel like you have to take a nap, limit it to 30 minutes before 3 p.m.
5. Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least eight hours before bed. And while alcohol can make you feel sleepy soon after drinking it, it interferes with the quality of your sleep. Nicotine is also a stimulant.
6. Eat light meals in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Fatty foods can take a lot of work for your stomach to digest, while spicy or acidic foods can cause heartburn. Remember that eating chocolate or drinking cocoa or coke can also worsen insomnia.
7. Carry out regular exercise, since it can improve your sleep and help you avoid insomnia, but it takes a few weeks to feel the full effects. Aim for 30 minutes or more of activity on most days, but not right before bedtime.
8. Turn off screens at least one hour before bedtime, since the light emitted from TV, tablets, smartphones, and computers suppresses your body’s production of Melatonin and can severely disrupt your sleep.
A good sleep, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, is fundamental not only for your performance during daily hours, but also for your health.
Watch the following Ted-Ed video to learn more about the benefits of a good night's sleep then check the two infographics below to better understand how sleep deprivation affects your health.
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