Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your
heart, weight, mind and more. However, with so many factors that
interfere with a good night’s sleep – from pressure at work and family
responsibilities to unexpected challenges, relationship issues or
illnesses – it’s no wonder that quality sleep is sometimes elusive.
Although you may not be able to control everything that may interfere with
your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep. Start with
these three simple tips.
(1) Stretch and relax
This easy-to-do, restorative yoga pose can help put your mind at ease, steady your breath, and reduce muscle tension without revving up your heart. It’s aptly known as the Reclining Butterfly pose. Lie on your
back with the soles of your feet together and your knees bent and dropping
toward the floor. Place your arms, palms up, by your sides, keeping your
shoulders back and your chest open. Close your eyes and inhale through
your nose while slowly counting to four, then exhale while counting back
down to one. Continue for ten minutes, or as long as it takes you to feel
(2) Set the mood
Light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that naturally
promotes sleep. “Even if you doze off, light can be detected through your
eyelids – and your brain won’t produce melatonin if it’s confused between
night and day,” says Joyce Walsleben, PhD, associate professor at the New
York University School of Medicine. “You want as much darkness in your
bedroom as you can handle without tripping over things.”
Keeping your room dark while you sleep is vital, but bringing the lights
down before bed is just as important. Bright lights before bedtime can
make it hard to fall asleep because diminishing levels of light naturally
signal your biological clock that it’s time to wind down, while bright
light screams “daytime!” Swap out daylight bright bedroom bulbs for
low-wattage bulbs, or install a dimmer switch. Like to read in bed? Do
it with the lowest light that’s still comfortable. Your body is
programmed to sleep when it’s dark, so you can encourage that rhythm by
easing into nighttime.
(3) Stick to a schedule
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends,
holidays and days off. This kind of consistency reinforces your body’s
natural sleep-wake cycle, and helps promote better sleep. However,
there’s a caveat: If you don’t fall asleep within about 15 minutes, get up
and do something relaxing, then go back to bed when you’re tired. If you
agonize over falling asleep, you might find it even tougher to nod off.
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