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If You Could Ask A Sleep Expert Anything, What Would You Ask?

If you could ask a sleeping expert advice on how to get a better night’s sleep, what would you ask? It’s not always easy to break unhealthy nighttime habits, especially when they have been a part of your lifestyle for a long time. But, adopting better sleeping habits is really no different than other routines that you prioritize on a daily basis. When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, it’s about making the time in your busy day to actually get some serious shut-eye. Here are a few tips from some sleep experts that know exactly what you need to do to make sleep a priority.

Make time for sleep. Dr. Scott Kutscher, Assistant Professor of Sleep and Neurology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, says, “sleep is vital, and one of the most important things you can do for your physical and mental health." He also compares the importance of sleeping to other priority habits such as exercise and healthy eating.

A consistent schedule is important. Dr. Susan Redline, MPH, Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, says to “follow a regular routine. Try to get to bed and wake up about the same time each night."

Prepare for sleep with a relaxing routine. "Create a relaxing bedtime ritual, like taking a warm bath or reading a magazine. It's important to unwind before getting into bed,” says Dr. David Volpi, founder of EOS Sleep Centers. 

Turn off distractions. Dr. Lisa Shives, founder of The Linden Center for Sleep and Weight Management in Chicago, says to "dim the lights one hour before desired bedtime and also turn off the screens one hour before bed. Light, including that from computers, iPads, TVs and smart phones, is the most powerful trigger for our neurotransmitters to switch to the 'on' position.” This light can keep you awake for a longer period of time. 

Prepare ahead of time for the next day. If you’re still preoccupied with your day, it can be hard to turn off your thoughts for a peaceful night’s rest. Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., instructor of psychiatry at the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program at the University of Pennsylvania, says you may not have given yourself enough time to work through the issues of the day. Instead of engaging in distracting activities such as watching TV, Grander suggests the approach of taking “some time in the evening to work through the day, make lists to do tomorrow and clear your mental desktop of all the stuff that you still have to think about. Then, get into bed."

Can’t sleep? Get up. "If you're in bed tossing and turning, unable to sleep, get out of bed. You just make things worse by lying there. Don't get back into bed until you think you can sleep," says Philip Gehrman, Ph.D., CBSM, clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Set up separate sheets. Dr. Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute, suggests that couples set up one fitted sheet with two separate twin size sheets and blankets to “reduce copartner disturbance from movement and disturbance because of temperature.” 

These expert suggestions, coupled with exercise, catching some rays during the day, and dressing comfortably for bed can all help you on your journey to a better night’s sleep. It’s also important to avoid caffeine and alcohol before hitting the hay. Once you have adopted some healthier bedtime rituals, you may be surprised at how much better you feel. They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing. 


Image Credit: Sleeping with the animals, used under a creative commons license.

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