Healthy Living: 8 Steps to Take Today
Healthy living starts right now. Experts tell you how.
Healthy Living StepNo. 6: Sleep better.
If you have trouble sleeping, try these tips from sleep medicine specialist
Lisa Shives, MD, medical director of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston,
- No TV or computer two hours before bedtime. It's not just because
the TV and computer are stimulating; it's also because of their light.
"We're very sensitive to the cue that light gives you that it's time to be
up and about," Shives says. She recommends light, calming reading lit by a
lamp that doesn't shine directly into your eyes.
- No heavy exercise close to bedtime. Light stretching is OK, but vigorous
activity will heat up your body's core temperature, which makes it harder to
sleep. "If you're working up a sweat, you're working too hard right before
bed," Shives says.
- Take a hot bath. That will heat up your core body temperature, but
when you get out of the bath, your core temperature will fall, which may help
you get to sleep. Plus, the bath "relaxes you mentally," Shives says.
She adds that having a hot, noncaffeinated drink, such as chamomile tea, may
- Set a regular sleep schedule. When Shives treats insomnia patients, she tells
them that although they can't make themselves fall asleep, they can make
themselves get up at a certain time the next morning. And though they may be
tired at first, if they don't nap, they may start sleeping better during the
following nights. "We're going to get nowhere if they take big naps during
the day and keep a very erratic sleep schedule; it's chaos then," Shives
- Don't count on weekend catch-up sleep. If you have chronic sleep
problems, you probably can't make up for that on the weekends. But if you
generally sleep well and have a rough week, go ahead and sleep in on the
weekend. "I actually think that's good for the body," Shives says.
- Don't ignore chronic sleep problems. "Don't let sleep troubles
linger for months or years. Get to a sleep specialist earlier rather than
later, before bad habits set in," Shives says.
- Prioritize good sleep. "This is as important as diet and
exercise," Shives says. She says that in our society, "we disdain
sleep, we admire energy and hard work and [have] this notion that sleep is just
something that gets in the way."
Healthy Living Step No. 7: Improve your relationships.
Healthy living isn't just about your personal habits for, say, diet and
activity. It's also about your connections with other people -- your social
DeWall, the University of Kentucky social psychologist, offers these tips
for broadening your social network:
- Look for people like you. The details of their lives don't have to
match yours, but look for a similar level of openness. "What really is
important in terms of promoting relationship well-being is that you share a
similar level of comfort in getting close to people," DeWall says. For
instance, he says that someone who needs a lot of reassurance might not find
the best relationship with someone who's more standoffish. "Feel people out
in terms of, 'Does this person seem like me in terms of wanting to be close to
other people?'" DeWall suggests.
- Spend time with people. "There's this emphasis in our culture
that you need to be very independent -- an army of one, you can get along on
your own," DeWall says. "Most people don't know their neighbors as much
as they did 50 or 60 years ago."
- Build both virtual and face-to-face relationships. DeWall isn't
against having online connections to other people. "But I think long term,
having all of your relationships online or virtual ... would probably be
something that wouldn't be as beneficial as having a mix" of having virtual
and in-person relationships.
- If a close relationship is painful, get help. "Some of my work
and some work that other people are doing suggest that ... when you feel
rejected by someone, that your body actually registers it as pain. So if I'm in a relationship
that's really causing me a lot of pain, then we need to do something, we need
to go and seek help," DeWall says.