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12 Healthy Habits to Get a Better Night’s Sleep, According to Scientists

The sleep science is in.

LYDIA RAMSEY AND JESSICA ORWIG
23 OCT 2015
 

The endless opportunities that technology offers come with an unexpected side effect: There never seem to be enough hours in the day to get things done and rest, too. And our bodies might be suffering for it.

 

Whether it is because we’re staying up late watching the latest show or lying awake in bed, unable to sleep, about 20 percent of Americans are sleep deprived, experts estimate. Rather than suffer through the day feeling groggy, here are 12 science-backed habits that can help you get a good night’s sleep - tonight.

Avoid 'social jet-lag' by keeping consistent sleeping hours

As much fun as sleeping in on the weekends is, it’s not doing your body any favours. You can blame something called social jet-lag. Unlike regular jet-lag, this one only happens when our body clocks get thrown off by the gap between our weekend and weekday sleep schedules. You can avoid it by waking up at the same time each day.

Steer clear of screens right before bed

You might think that scrolling through your Instagram feed before bed might be a good way to wind down, but it’s not helping you fall asleep. Studies suggest that the light from cellphones and other electronic devices may interfere with our brain’s production of melatonin, the chemical that tells our bodies it’s time to sleep.

To combat this, researchers suggest powering down your devices an hour before heading to bed. Plus, you’ll also have more time to read that book you keep neglecting.

Exercise regularly

The relationship between sleep and exercise is a little complicated. A small study of women with insomnia found a connection between better sleep and exercise. The better night’s sleep you get, the more likely you’ll work out.

But it’s a beneficial cycle. The study found that four months down the road of exercising consistently, the women were sleeping at least 45 minutes more a night. Sleep well. Work out well. Repeat.

Eat a diverse diet

In an analysis of the 2007-08 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that the amount of time people slept was linked to the types of foods they ate. And 'normal sleepers' - those who got seven to eight hours of shut-eye each night - tended to eat a more diverse diet.

Obviously, the researchers can’t say whether spicing up your plate will necessarily help you sleep, but it likely won’t do any harm!

Stay away from caffeine starting 6 hours before bed

Caffeine is one of the best ways to get an energy boost in the morning, but if you consume it too close to bed, it could cause some sleep problems. A small study of 12 healthy normal sleepers who took caffeine pills 0, 3, or 6 hours before bed found that the participants had the best nights of sleep if they didn’t have caffeine within at least 6 hours of sleeping. Big surprise.

Cuddle up in a bedroom that’s cool

Studies suggest there’s an optimal temperature for sleeping: 15 to 19 degrees Celsius if you’re wearing pajamas and have a blanket, and 30 to 32 degrees if you prefer to sleep with a little less on. Scientists think that when our bodies cool down, it helps jump-start the sleep process.

Know how much sleep you need. It changes with age

As you grow, your body changes and so do your sleeping needs. Here’s the recommended number of hours of sleep you need depending on your age group, according to the National Sleep Foundation in the US:

0 to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours

4 to 11 months: 12 to 15 hours

1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours

3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours

6 to 13 years: 9 to 11 hours

14 to 17 years: 8 to 10 hours

18 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours

Over 65 years: 7 to 8 hours

Skip the snooze button. Your body will thank you

That glorious snooze button sure seems inviting in the morning, but it could be messing up your sleep cycle and making you feel more tired throughout the day. Here are two reasons you should skip the snooze.

The quality of sleep you get after hitting snooze is less than if you just continued sleeping for those extra 10 minutes. And by falling back to sleep, you’re setting yourself up for another sleep cycle that you have no chance of finishing, according to Robert S. Rosenberg, the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Centre of Prescott Valley and Flagstaff, Arizona.

Avoid a night cap

Anyone who’s ever had one too many knows that alcohol sometimes seems to put you to sleep. But according to the National Institute of Health, alcohol toys with signals in your brain that affect your quality of sleep. More specifically, it robs you of the deeper, restorative stages of sleep, which is why you may feel tired and unrested the morning after.

Don’t sleep in bad positions

If you’re having a hard time sleeping and wake up with aches and pains the next morning, you might want to reassess your sleeping position. A large telephone survey of Australian residents revealed that people who favoured sleeping on their side were less likely to report aches and pains as well as sleepless nights compared to people who sleep in any other position.

If you’re a teen, try to avoid waking up at the crack of dawn

Middle- and high-school students are in the midst of a sleep-deprivation crisis, Paul Kelley of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford recently said. To combat this, Kelley suggests a later start to the day. And he isn’t the only one who supports this.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools should not start before 8:30am. A recent study by the US Department of Health also advocates for later school start times.

Get some sun!

When researchers recently exposed 22 office workers to an environment with numerous windows, they discovered that those workers slept, on average, 46 minutes more per night than the 27 office workers who spent their days in windowless spaces. While the study is too small to draw any firm conclusions, similar experiments have supported the notion that getting sunlight during the day can help you feel more alert during the day and can help you sleep at night.


This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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