Simple solutions for a better night's sleep

The importance of a good night’s sleep is well-documented. Numerous studies have found that the effects of a good night’s sleep go beyond boosting energy levels and improving alertness. A better sex life, less chronic pain and an improved mood are just a handful of the documented benefits that a good night’s sleep can provide.

As important and beneficial as sleep is, many adults in the United States simply aren’t getting enough rest. A 2016 study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than one-third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Those findings are based on guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society that recommend adults between the ages of 18 and 60 sleep at least seven hours each night.

Getting a more restful night’s sleep requires concerted efforts on the part of adults who are falling short of seven hours each night. But the following are some simple ways for adults to start getting more rest.

     ¥ Stick to a routine seven days a week. People tend to alter their sleep routines based on the day of the week, with many going to bed later at night and sleeping in later in the morning on weekends. But the National Sleep Foundation notes that going to bed at the same time each day, including weekends, helps people feel more sleepy at bedtime and fall asleep quickly.

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     ¥ Avoid alcohol in the hours before going to bed. Alcohol can make people feel sleepy, but that effect is short-lived. The sleepiness many people feel after consuming alcohol wears off quickly, and that can lead to interruptions in sleep.

     ¥ Avoid stimulants in the late afternoon and at night. Alcohol is a depressant that can affect the quality of sleep a person gets. But stimulants can also make it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Nicotine acts as a stimulant in small doses, so smokers should stop smoking that last cigarette before bedtime if they’re not getting decent or adequate sleep. Caffeinated beverages also should be avoided in the late afternoon and at night because caffeine stimulates the nervous system and can make it difficult to fall asleep, even if it’s been several hours since that last cup of coffee.

     ¥ Take short daytime naps. Some people find that daytime naps improve the quality of their nighttime sleep. That might be due to the link between naps and stress. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that short naps can reduce stress. Reduced stress levels can make it easier to fall asleep at night. Limit naps to between 20 and 30 minutes, as naps that stretch on too long may interfere with nighttime sleep.

Sufficient sleep can have a dramatic, positive impact on a person’s quality of life. Developing a good sleep routine and employing additional strategies can help sleep-deprived men and women get more restful nights’ sleep.

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