The exact answer to how to sleep better at night may vary from person to person—anything from peppermint tea or a bedtime ritual to a cooler room and an adjustable bed—but there are a few common elements to consider if you’re finding yourself sleepless night after night—or waking up stiff and in pain when you are able to sleep.
- Are you exercising enough and eating right? Exercising can help you sleep more soundly (which in turn should help you feel more alert and eager to exercise the next day). Just don’t try to do so right before bed, since it will raise your heart rate and body temperature. Also pay attention to your eating habits. In addition to promoting good health in general, eating a smaller meal in the evening helps to make sure you’re not going to bed too full and with the possibility of an upset stomach or heartburn.
- How dark is your room? Recent studies show that blue light (such as that from your smartphone, computer or cable modem) in particular disrupts sleep. Switch off electronics completely or cover any lights that must stay on all night, such as an LED that indicates your phone is charging.
- Are you using the best pillows? The exact pillow that works best for you will depend on sleeping position and spine curvature. If your pillow is too low or too high, it can flatten out or exaggerate the natural curvature of your cervical spine and lead to pain. The National Sleep Foundation reports that an estimated 15% of Americans experience chronic pain from their sleeping positions, and neck and back pain are two of the leading medical problems that prevent sleep.
- Is a traditional mattress working for you? Your spine is shaped like an S—meaning that lying on a flat bed doesn’t provide even spinal support. This can make it tough to get a good night’s sleep, especially if you’re part of the 80…90% of Americans the American Chiropractic Association estimates already suffer from back pain. If you frequently fall asleep in a lounge chair and find you’re more comfortable there than in bed, you may want to consider an adjustable bed. It won’t necessarily be identical to an electric hospital bed; there are many adjustable bed choices, including memory foam, and being able to customize the sleeping position to your body may decrease back pain and other discomfort.
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