7 tips for getting a good night’s sleep

Sep 17, 2012, 10:50 AM | Updated: 10:50 am

SALT LAKE CITY — For too many adults, consistently getting a good night’s sleep has become somewhat of a mythical quest. With all the distractions, stresses and ailments we face, getting regular, restorative sleep is more and more elusive.

The reasons for poor sleep are myriad, the solutions to this problem are no so complex.

“Although we may not like to admit it, many of the sleep problems we experience are the result of bad habits and behaviors,” writes Dr. Frank Lipman for The Huffington Post. “We stay up late or sleep in late. We eat foods that disagree with us or enjoy a drink late at night, oblivious to their disruptive impact on our sleep rhythms. Over time, we teach our body not to sleep and for relief we often turn to sleeping pills, which mask rather than solve the problem.”

In order to get some quality shut-eye, experts suggest getting back to the basics. Here are seven simple but crucial tips for getting a good night’s sleep.

Wear yourself out

To get and keep your body running optimally, be sure to include physical activity in your daily routine. According to mayoclinic.com, “Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep.” Just don’t cram in a last-minute workout right before bed. If you exercise too close to bedtime, the Mayo Clinic warns, “you might be too energized to fall asleep. If this seems to be an issue for you, exercise earlier in the day.”

Say no to stimulants

“It’s a no-brainer that drinking coffee or tea right before you hit the sack won’t do you any sleep favors. But you also need to watch your afternoon drinks,” writes Leslie Barrie for Health magazine. That’s because caffeine and other stimulants can be working on your system for up to six hours. Even then, your body still may take time to wind down. “Check the labels on your favorite midday drinks — any that boast energy-boosting benefits are likely culprits. Then, if possible, stop sipping them by 2 p.m., so there’s time for their effects to wear off,” Barrie writes.

Turn off technology

With the prevalent use of handheld electronic devices, technology is always literally at hand. But not only are smartphones, computers and TVs a temptation during downtime, they are also a big hindrance to relaxation. Electronic devices are “too stimulating to the brain and will cause you to stay awake longer,” says Lipman. He advises creating an electronic shutdown by 10 p.m. If you must keep your phone by your bed, be sure to turn off e-mail and other alerts to keep your sleep uninterrupted.

Stick to a schedule

In our crazy, over-scheduled lives, scheduling time for sleep seems to fall last on the priority list — or not at all. For too many of us, going to bed is pushed back later and later as we try to cram more into our day. But experts say ignoring a respectable bed time — and any semblance of consistency — is a huge factor in preventing good sleep.

“Our bodies thrive on regularity and a consistent sleep schedule is the best reinforcement for the body’s internal clock,” Lipman says. “Waking and sleeping at set times reinforces a consistent sleep rhythm and reminds the brain when to release sleep and wake hormones, and more importantly, when not to.”

Set the stage

Creating a calming atmosphere for sleep is more than just dimming the lights, although that is one major component. “Keeping your room dark while you sleep is a great start, but bringing the lights down before bed is also important,” Barrie writes. “That’s because dimness signals the biological clock that it’s time to wind down, while bright light says ‘daytime!’” Beyond lighting, be sure that the bedroom is a comfortable, soothing, stress-free zone, so get rid of computers, clutter and other stimulating or distracting things. “Remove any distractions (mentally and physically) that will prevent you from sleeping,” Lipman says.

Create a routine

Having some sort of wind-down ritual is one of the top recommended tips for parents trying to sleep-train their children, but its benefits extend to adults, too. “Relaxing activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness,” advises the Mayo Clinic. “Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music — preferably with the lights dimmed.”

Get a decent mattress

If all other factors are in place and you still find yourself tossing and turning — or, worse, waking up feeling you’ve been hit by a truck — your bed just may be to blame. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Your mattress and pillow can contribute to better sleep, too. Since the features of good bedding are subjective, choose what feels most comfortable to you.” You don’t have to go broke and buy a top-of-the-line mattress, but if pain and discomfort are issues, buy the best quality you can afford. Consider it an investment in your overall health.

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7 tips for getting a good night’s sleep