Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Balance

Font Size

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, Ill.

  • 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 also help.
  • 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 says.
  • 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 network.

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.

 

Today on WebMD

Hands breaking pencil in frustration
Quiz
Dark chocolate bars
Slideshow
 
teen napping with book over face
VIDEO
concentration killers
Slideshow
 
man reading sticky notes
Quiz
worried kid
fitArticle
 
Hungover man
Slideshow
Woman opening window
Slideshow
 
Woman yawning
Health Check
Happy and sad faces
Quiz
 
brain food
Slideshow
laughing family
Quiz