Tips for restful sleep

Sleepless nights are among the most difficult things to deal with. Often, we feel so utterly tired, exhausted even; yet we cannot seem to fall asleep despite ourselves.

We toss and turn and stress and struggle, yet sleep doesn’t arrive until the wee hours of the morning. When this happens, we wake up tired, exhausted, sick and often in pain or discomfort. Sleepless nights interfere with our day, our work and our sense of well-being.

And when sleeplessness persists, it can change our lives for the worse.

Getting ample REM sleep is essential to health and wellness. Here are some tips to help you sleep.

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Set Your Sleep/Wake Cycle

The first way to fight insomnia is to establish a set sleep and wake schedule. Studies show the optimal time to sleep is 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. By sleeping during these hours, you avoid distractions that might entice you to stay up later than desired. Few things are so important that losing sleep over them is worth it.

By setting your sleep time, you can find more energy to get through your daily schedule.  In time, your body and mind will begin to naturally adjust to the new cycle. Once the body is in the habit of shutting down and revving up at the same time each day, insomnia often ceases.

No Sugar Or Caffeine After 6:00 P.M.

To help with this schedule, it is important not to stimulate the body too close to bedtime. Foods and beverages containing refined sugars and caffeine create short-term energy bursts in the body that can wake you up or make your mind race when you need to be sleeping. It takes a few hours for your body to metabolize sugars and caffeine, in many cases, so not consuming any after 6 p.m. is preferable.

No Exercise Or Continuous Physical Activity After 7 P.M.

Exercising or engaging in laborious work late in the evening also stimulates the body. These activities spur the movement of blood and make the mind too active to sleep. Try to exercise in the morning or afternoon if you can. When possible, perform strenuous activities earlier in the evening.

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Reduce Anxiety And Stress

Stress and anxiety are two of the most reported reasons people lose sleep. At bedtime, they worry about things they cannot change. If you need to make a call, pay a bill or fix a relationship issue, worrying about it doesn’t help. Instead, acknowledge the troubling thoughts, make a note of possible action and know there is nothing to be done now. The morning will come, and action can be taken then. Recognize that no amount of worry, stress or anxiety at bedtime changes your situation.

No Reading Or Watching TV In Bed

To avoid insomnia, make sure that bedtime is bedtime, period.

Among the bad habits of insomniacs is reading in bed. For some people, this can be a time of relaxing, changing the mind from work or life to fantasy. But for those with sleep issues, reading in bed changes the function of the time (evening) and place (bed) from sleep to activity. Also, it is easy to get caught up in a story, stay up too late or connect thoughts in your own life to events in the book you are reading. For successful deep sleep, it is best to use your bed for sleep and nothing else.

Create The Proper Sleep Space

Your sleeping space or environment is important for helping you sleep. Studies show that sleeping in a completely dark space with little sound is most conducive to restful sleep. In addition to blinds, dark curtains that block out external light are a good idea, as is not using an illuminated clock by the bed. Having a comfortable mattress and blankets that make you feel cozy and not pained or irritated is also important. The quality of your sleep space is crucial: You don’t want light or sound to rouse you from an otherwise deep sleep. Oh, and be sure to turn off your phone; at least switch off the one next to your bed.

Use Sleep Aids

For those who need a little extra help with sleep, using sleep aids often helps. If your home is noisy or your mind is racing, you can use a sound machine to alter the virtual environment. Earplugs and eye masks are good at shutting out sound and light. Supplements containing melatonin, valerian or chamomile can help relax you and lead to drowsiness. You don’t want to rely on sleep aids forever, but having some handy for the start of a new sleep cycle plan or when sleep is especially hard to come by can often help.

By following these simple tips, you can break the sleepless night cycle while establishing a haven for restful, reparative sleep. You will no longer dread those sleepless nights and will feel refreshed in the morning ready for the challenges and joys of waking life.

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Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.