Sleeping pills are becoming more prevalent in American society. One study said that roughly a third of all seniors use these pills (1) on occasion to fall asleep. And the number is just as high among other age groups. The problem is that long-term use of sleeping pills has been known to cause side effects, such as constipation and confusion. You should consider lifestyle and diet changes instead of popping pills to help you sleep better.
Here are some tips to help you sleep better without addictive sleep medication:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia
For those with more serious problems, scientists recommend looking into cognitive behavioral therapy (2) for insomnia. For regular users of sleeping pills, this can help break the cycle of using pills. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a structured program that helps you identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep problems with habits that promote sound sleep. Unlike sleeping pills, CBT-I helps you overcome the underlying causes of your sleep problems. Therapy includes a range of strategies, including mindfulness training to help people sleep better.
Stick to Your Bedtime
Studies have shown that people who have a regular bedtime are less likely to have poor sleep. The human body relies on routine to function at its optimal rate. It’s estimated that a third of Americans don’t get the required amount of sleep per night (3), and this is due to a range of reasons. The modern world has steadily eroded sleeping hours. With a bedtime routine you constantly feel tired and out of energy. Set a bedtime and a waking up time and stick to it, even on weekends.
Reduce Screen Time an Hour Before Bed
One of the most common pieces of advice you’ll receive is to reduce screen time an hour before bed. That means switching off your iPhone and computer so your brain can wind down (4). The artificial light coming from screens doesn’t let the body relax. It keeps it alert and prevents it from relaxing.
Phone screens and sleep have a tricky relationship. The blue light from your phone is an artificial color that mimics daylight. This can be great during the day, as it can make you feel more alert, but it’s just the opposite of what you need at night when you’re winding down and ready to hit the hay. So, if you regularly fall asleep with the television on, you know what you need to do.
Opt for Total Darkness in Your Bedroom
Whether it’s curtains that don’t block out lights or bedside lamps left on when you fall asleep, a lack of total darkness is a big problem. Human civilization might have changed, but the body hasn’t. It still operates like it always has. When darkness falls, the body wants to sleep. When the sun begins to rise it’s programmed to wake again. So, if you don’t have a completely dark room, you’re programming the body to wake when any form of light appears. Look into blackout blinds to ensure that your bedroom has the total darkness you need to get restful sleep.
Search for a New Mattress
Sore muscles and aching joints the next morning? Then it’s time to get a new mattress. Old, poor quality mattresses cause untold damage across the nation. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep to feel refreshed—and if you’re spending eight hours per night on your mattress, it’s going to wear out over time. “Realistically, you should replace your mattress every ten years or so.
A new mattress is the biggest change you can make to your sleep habits. Take your time and ensure that there’s a money back guarantee on any purchase, so you can test drive your new mattress first.
Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow. Stress management might help. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Meditation also can ease anxiety. Because stress and sleep problems share such a reciprocal relationship, addressing one of these issues can often lead to improvements for the other (5).
Does diet affect your sleep?
Eating just before going to bed could leave you tossing and turning all night as your digestive system processes your food. (6) It’s best to avoid eating heavy meals at night. If you’re going to have a big meal, have it in the middle of the day. You’re less likely to store the extra calories as fat because your body will have time to burn them off and you’ll be less likely to have heartburn.
Caffeinated beverages are also a culprit, so limit coffee, tea and soda after 2 p.m. Watch out for food and drinks that contain caffeine, such as chocolate, coffee- or chocolate-flavored desserts, soda and even decaf coffee.
One of the best things you can do to get better sleep is to maintain a healthy weight and eat a nutritious diet. Being overweight impacts your overall sleep because it can lead to snoring and sleep apnea.
We hope these tips help. Do you have problems getting the right amount of sleep every night?
(1) Prescription and Nonprescription Sleep Product Use Among Older Adults in the United States
(2) Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Take a Sleeping Pill Every Night
(3) The Single Best Way to Ensure a Better Night’s Sleep, Starting Tonight
(4) Why You Should Ditch Your Phone Before Bed
(5) Stress and Insomnia
(6) Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality
by Andrew Ellis