When it comes to getting beneficial sleep, quality can be as important as quantity. Here, expert advice for nabbing a restful and restorative night.
Set Your Alarm for When to Go to Sleep
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is crucial for mental and physical health, but it is sometimes easier said than done. “Patients think, Yeah, I’m going to bed in 10 minutes,” says Michael Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep ($26, amazon.com). “Then they look up and an hour and a half has gone by. I suggest that patients set their bedside alarm clocks as a reminder to go to sleep at night. That way, they have to walk into the bedroom and turn off the alarm. It’s a visual and auditory cue.”
Avoid “Social Jet Lag”
Many overscheduled Americans have a tendency to get by on five hours of sleep during the workweek, then play catch-up on the weekend. “This is not a good habit to get into,” says Shelby Harris, Psy.D., the director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City. “If you sleep in on Saturday and Sunday morning, your body is essentially adjusting to a new time zone.” The result: Sunday-night insomnia. “You are anxious about the new week starting, plus your body has not been up long enough to be sleepy for bed,” she says.
Develop a Sleep Routine
Harris suggests that you get into a regular pre-bedtime routine. Dimming all the lights in the hour before bed can signal your body to ease into sleep mode. Adopt a gentle bedtime ritual: Read a book, play calming music, or do some simple stretching. “It’s not a good time to get into a big financial discussion with your spouse,” says Harris. This type of good sleep hygiene can also reduce your risk of developing serious sleep problems, she says.
Sleep in Layers
You want to be able to toss sheets and blankets on and off during the night to stay comfortable. (Starting the night cooler can help you drop off to sleep as your body temperature dips.) “If you’re sleeping with someone who likes it warmer or cooler, have two comforters,” says Harris.
Make Your Bed
Your mother was right: You should make your bed every morning. A 2011 survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that bed-makers were 19 percent more likely to report a good night’s sleep.