Avoiding Sleep Deprivation

Strategies to Improve Sleep

Try these strategies to help you get a good night's sleep and avoid the effects of sleep deprivation.

  1. Limit or eliminate caffeine. Caffeine can stay in the system for as long as 12 hours. Try to eliminate, or at least decrease your total caffeine intake, and certainly avoid all caffeine, including decaffeinated coffee or tea, after noon.
  2. Exercise. The body may not be fully ready to rest until it has expended its daily energy. A regular exercise routine is essential for those with sleeping problems. If you typically exercise in the evening and have trouble sleeping, move your workout to the morning.
  3. Routine. Do the same thing while getting ready for bed each night. Read for a bit in a chair or different room, pray or shower/bathe. Doing the same thing every night will send a signal to the body that it’s time to prepare for sleep.
  4. Breathe. Practice the breathing exercises described in the article, Breathing for relaxation as part of a bedtime routine.
  5. The bed is for sleep. Know the role of your bed, and avoid reading, watching television or talking on the phone. Your bed is strictly for sleep and sex.
  6. Comfort. Be certain that the bed and pillows are comfortable. If there have been friends’ houses or hotels where you experienced better sleep, find out what type of mattress and pillows prompted such a pleasant night.
  7. Noise. Make sure the bedroom is quiet and free of any stimulating sound. Try a sound machine if you require consistent, soothing background noise.
  8. Nutrition. Sound, balanced nutrition will prevent health-related symptoms from occurring at night. For example, those with fluctuations in blood sugar during the day can suffer from pain and sleep disturbance at night. Ensure a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables along with whole grains.
  9. Manage stress. Stress can wreak havoc on sleep. Set guidelines for stress management, incorporating journaling, breathing or yoga into a daily routine. Poor sleep and stress go hand-in-hand and their management strategies are therefore overlapping.
  10. Melatonin. The brain’s sleep hormone can be used as a supplement to improve rest. It works best for those suffering from broken sleep, and is only useful if there is a body deficiency of melatonin. Start with 1/2 -1 mg at bedtime. If needed, gradually increase the dose up to 10 mg. After about 4-6 weeks of good sleep, try to back down on the dose.
  11. Chamomile. This relaxing herb can be very beneficial in those having difficulty falling asleep. Enjoy one or two cups in herbal tea form as part of a bedtime routine.

What’s the story with eating prior to sleep?

There are certainly arguments for both sides. It varies from person to person. If you are finding yourself hungry prior to bedtime, have a snack. Keep it light and the portion small. Try a small bowl of oatmeal or granola with dried fruit, unsweetened applesauce or a spoonful of organic nut butter. I don’t subscribe to the theory that eating prior to bed automatically stores it as fat, especially when whole grains, fruits, or vegetables are involved.

What’s the best vitamin or mineral to improve sleep?

One would do well trying a combined calcium and magnesium supplement. It’s beneficial for those with restless legs and anyone suffering from overactivity of the cardiac or nervous system. Start with around 500 mg of each. If you don’t see a benefit in 7-10 days, try doubling the dose.

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