There is no question that getting your share of a good night’s deep, restful, rejuvenating sleep is essential for good health. Heck, it’s essential for life itself, yet so many of us suffer night after night lying in bed, trying to fall asleep only to be disappointed again and again. Here are some proven steps you can use to help you sleep better, deeper, and wake up on the sunny side of life.
1. A good night’s sleep starts with consistency. Most of us require 7.5 – 8 hours of sleep nightly to function. Our bodies/brains respond favorably to a regular, consistent schedule especially when it comes to sleep. Go to bed at the same, reasonable time nightly. This helps set our circadian clock, which governs our sleep/wake cycle.
2. Our sleep environment (a.k.a. bedroom) needs to be kept cool, dark, and noise free. The concept of background noise, crashing waves, chirping birds, or classical music serves to sell more “sleeping” music but does little for sleep itself. In order to get to REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement), a deeper state of sleep, quiet works best for most of us. Many of us wake up to visit the bathroom. Avoid turning bright lights on. Instead, place dim nightlights along the path to the restroom. When you return to bed, you’ll quickly fall back into sleep.
3. Eliminate all caffeine and alcohol 5-7 hours prior to going to sleep. Most of us know that caffeine is a stimulant and should be avoided, but are unaware of the negative effect alcohol has on our brains. Alcohol is a depressant, no news there. When we sleep, our muscles are relaxed, our heart slows, and our blood pressure is reduced. Additionally, our core temperature drops. Our brain however, is hard at work. Lots of sorting and housekeeping functions take place. Brain cells are cleansed, thoughts and experiences we had while awake are categorized and filed. Simple, non-descript experiences or thoughts are discarded. Ever wake up in the middle of the night with a blockbuster idea? That’s a direct result of your brain categorizing thoughts and experiences. Pretty cool, yes? Alcohol consumed too close to bedtime interferes with this vital process.
4. Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress. This is a big one. As I mentioned, when we sleep, our muscles and joints relax. Totally relaxed, we must be cradled and supported properly so sleep can progress in its regenerative, magical power. This support must be in place regardless of how we sleep. A worn or inadequate mattress results in interrupted sleep, not to mention aches, pain, and an advanced state of the grumps. I am not the first one to say it and it requires repeating: we think nothing of spending $50,000, $60,000 on a new car. When it comes to our sleep, we look for a king mattress on a scratch/dent/floor model sale at 80% off. Have some respect for sleep. By age 80 we have spent over 26 years sleeping on a mattress. Invest the money in a wonderful, luxurious, life-supporting mattress and experience the dividends and magic of blissful sleep.
5. Eliminate technology that has invaded our bedrooms causing some of us sleepless nights. Sleep medicine has just added “sleep texting” to its list of sleep disorders. I am not making this up. Get the TV and cell phone out of the bedroom. We charge our cell phones at night and some of them emit a sleep interrupting light. Your bedroom is no place for a glowing, beeping cell phone or a TV. Viewing a highly charged television show just before going to sleep is not helping you relax.
Many of us simply take sleep for granted and the result is ugly. As a member of the sleep industry, practice what you preach and give SLEEP the respect it deserves. Its magical, recharging effect is miraculous. Shakespeare said, “Enjoy the Honey Heavy Dew of Slumber.” High five William for that one!
Steven King is an author, speaker, teacher, and trainer. He has written two highly acclaimed books, including "Money in The Mattress: The Sales Associates Guide to Premium Mattress Sales." Steven is the Sleep Expert for Norris Home Furnishings in Fort Myers, Naples, and Sanibel, Florida. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.