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Creating better sleep habits in the New Year

One expert’s top tips for getting more sleep

Photo (c) YinYang - Getty Images
As consumers ring in a new year, many will begin tackling resolutions they made to improve their health and well-being. When it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, experts say it’s important not to forget that sleep is just as important as diet and exercise.

Getting a sufficient amount of shut-eye each night can be a challenge for many. In fact, a recent survey found that 67 percent of Americans wish they got more sleep. For those wishing for more sleep in 2018, sleep health expert Dr. Sujay Kansagra has a few tips for removing the barriers to a solid night’s sleep.

“While diet and exercise are often viewed as the components for leading a healthy lifestyle, sleep is an essential third pillar,” he told ConsumerAffairs.

Sleep and screens don’t mix

A full night of sleep helps the body recover from a stressful day and prepare for the morning ahead, Kansagra says. However, many of the things we do before bed can get in the way of a good night’s sleep.

Using technology before bed should be avoided since computers, TVs, and other devices emit a harmful blue light that can actually keep us awake.

“Watching TV or surfing the web until you feel sleepy can disrupt the secretion of a natural sleep hormone called melatonin, leaving you to a night of restless sleeping,” Kansagra said.

Set the stage for sleep

To help encourage healthy sleep, Kansagra says that consumers should curb daytime caffeine consumption to ensure that they’re not too wired to sleep.

“Even morning caffeine can linger in your system when it’s time to sleep,” he says. “Our body clears about half of the caffeine in our system every 4 to 7 hours. Although most coffee from breakfast is out of our system by bedtime, traces of caffeine can be present at night.”

Consumers should also avoid spending excessive time in bed doing work or watching TV. Kansagra says activities like these should be performed outside your bed and, ideally, outside your room.

“You want to condition your mind to think about sleep when you walk into your bedroom, not about the latest assignment from work,” he said.

Tips for falling asleep

If your biggest challenge is falling asleep, try thinking about staying awake instead of worrying about falling asleep.

“It sounds counterintuitive, but for those that find it difficult to sleep because they keep worrying about not falling asleep, do the opposite,” Kansagra said. “This often lessens anxiety and gives your mind a chance to relax enough to fall asleep. It’s a technique known as paradoxical intent.”

If tomorrow’s responsibilities prevent you from drifting off, try writing down your to-do list or jotting down your worries. Getting your to-do list off your mind and onto paper may keep you from thinking about it excessively just before bed.

Taking a hot shower before bed can also help you fall asleep faster.

“The body temperature drops when we fall asleep. Taking a hot nighttime shower just before bedtime artificially raises the body temperature,” Kansagra explained. “The subsequent fast drop can make it easier to fall asleep.”

While not all consumers require the same amount of sleep per night, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between seven or eight hours of sleep daily.

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