A lack of sleep is more than just an inconvenience, especially if you’re experiencing sleep insufficiency three or more nights a week. Insomnia and other sleep disorders have become a problem for many adults in the U.S. In fact, poor or insufficient sleep is such a problem the Centers for Disease Control has named it a public health epidemic. Prescription sleeping pills are a quick answer for some, but the unwanted side effects and concerns about dependency make pharmaceutical solutions a last resort for many of the chronically sleep deprived.
Instead of turning to medications that may or may not help, try these six easy lifestyle-based solutions for a good night’s sleep.
- Buy a New Mattress
The solution to your restless nights may be as simple as investing in a new mattress. If you wake up tired with aches and pains, if your mattress is more than five years old, if it’s visibly lumpy or saggy, if you’re over 40 or if you sleep better in a hotel than you do in your own bed the source of your sleeping problem may be right under your nose – or under your back as the case may be.
- Try Aromatherapy
It might smell suspicious, but scientific research has shown that the scent of lavender is calming and produces mildly sedative effects. Skip the drugstore candles and purchase a small bottle of pure lavender essential oil. Rub a drop or two on your temples as part of your bedtime ritual.
- Have a Snack
While you should avoid caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes sweets and large or spicy meals before bedtime, a small carbohydrate-based snack may help make you drowsy. Try eating a few whole-grain crackers, a small serving of warm oatmeal or half a turkey sandwich about 20 minutes before you head to bed.
- Get Cozy
Create a comfortable, cozy sleeping area free of distraction. Move the TV or computer out of the bedroom. The light from these electronics actually suppresses our natural melatonin production and makes insomnia worse, and though some people use television to relax, more often it stimulates the mind and makes sleep more elusive. Use low-wattage bulbs, comfortable, breathable sheets and blankets on your bed and keep the room slightly cool. If you enjoy reading in bed avoid using a backlit e-reader, which also suppresses melatonin. Enjoy a good old-fashioned print book by the glow of a soft light instead.
- Get Some Sun
Spending all day indoors under fluorescent lighting can throw off your natural circadian rhythm. Spend at least a few minutes in the morning and afternoon outside with the sun on your face sans sunglasses, and keep curtains and blinds open as much as possible.
- Create a Bedtime Routine
Whichever new sleep habits you decide to try, the important thing is to create a familiar bedtime routine to follow every night. Get ready for bed at the same time each night, eat a bowl of cereal, spend five minutes in quiet mediation – whatever you do, do it regularly. Eventually your brain will begin to relate sleep with those behaviors and will naturally ready itself for rest when the routine begins.
Sleep deprivation can affect your health by compromising your immune system, sabotaging weight loss or making you more prone to serious accidents. If you are suffering from a chronic lack of sleep don’t brush it off as the natural consequence of a busy life. If lifestyle changes don’t lead to a better night’s rest, consult your physician before your health or safety are severely compromised.
Thomas is a heath enthusiast with a passion for writing. In his spare time, he enjoys blogging on behalf of Sears and other brands he loves.