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how to get the best sleep

Need sleep?  We all know that a good night’s sleep, along with a healthy diet and moderate exercise, allows us to be at our best.  But for many women, quality sleep is extremely hard to come by.  Per a recent survey by the National Sleep Foundation, two-thirds of women experience a sleep disruption a few times each week.  More than one-half of the women polled reported waking up feeling tired most mornings.

Poor sleep, or not enough sleep, can compromise our immune systems and lead to weight gain.  Chronic sleep problems can lead to a greater risk of health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression.  But even a small sleep deficit can make it difficult to concentrate, leading to increases in accidents and a decrease in performance at school and/or work.

We know sleep is important.  So how can we improve our sleep habits and increase our chances of waking up feeling rested and ready for the day?

1.  Set Your Schedule for Success

Your internal clock operates most effectively if you follow a regular sleep schedule. It is best to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even weekends.  Sleep experts also suggest avoiding naps entirely, or keeping them to less than twenty minutes so your nighttime sleep is not affected.  The blue light emitted by our ever-present cell phones and tablets can also make it difficult to fall asleep, so you may want to think about powering down your devices about an hour before bedtime. Upon waking, make sure you open your blinds and turn on your lights.  The bright light tells your body that it is time to get moving.

2.  Diet and Exercise

To improve the quality of your sleep, avoid big meals too close to bedtime.  Choose water or another decaffeinated beverage after two in the afternoon and finish high intensity workouts at least three hours before heading to bed.  Be conscious of your alcohol intake, as well.  Though alcohol may help you relax and get to sleep more easily, it actually alters your sleep pattern and can cause you to wake up more often throughout the night.

3.  Free Your Mind

Oftentimes all the thoughts running through our heads are women’s worst enemy when it comes to drifting off.  If this is the case, try either jotting down stressors before turning in, or making a To Do list for the following day to put your mind at ease.  Read a book or magazine, take a relaxing bath, or meditate to calm your mind before trying to sleep.  The noise from a fan, air conditioner, or white noise machine can be soothing and also help quiet your mind.  If you still have trouble sleeping, doctors suggest making relaxation your goal rather than stressing about sleep.  While simply resting in bed does not replace sleep, it still helps rejuvenate you for the next morning.

4.  Get Professional Help

If you’ve changed your habits and diet and are STILL losing sleep at night, schedule an appointment with your healthcare practitioner. He or she may give you a referral to see a sleep specialist. Some sleep loss is a result of disorders like sleep apnea that need special treatment to avoid. If nothing else, a sleep expert can monitor your habits and let you know what is preventing your most restful sleep.

When it comes down to it, the best way to improve your sleep is to try to relax.  Accept that some days will be better than others and aim for healthy sleep habits most days.  Don’t add sleep to the list of worries keeping you up at night!

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