For optimum health, most adults need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. But quantity isn't the only thing that matters. Quality counts, too.
"Interrupted sleep isn't restorative," says Michael Breus, PhD. He is the author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health.
These days, lots of things can rob you of precious sleep. If you find yourself waking often, follow this advice to sleep easier all night long.
Ease Stress and Worry
Keeping up a frantic pace until you collapse into bed isn't a smart sleep strategy. "A revved-up mind remains in a mild state of alertness even while you sleep, making you susceptible to nighttime awakenings," Breus says.
Before turning in, try these tips to unwind:
- Light stretching
- Reading (but not on an electronic device because the light can make it hard to get sleepy)
Also, try keeping a "worry journal." You can ease stress if you write down your concerns or tomorrow's action items before calling it a night.
If nagging thoughts make you wake up at night, Breus suggests distracting yourself by counting backwards by 3s from 300.
Still awake? Grab that worry journal again.
Get a New Mattress
Chronic pain can disrupt your sleep. If an achy back or hip routinely wakes you up, it's time to take a look at what you're resting on.
"Mattresses lose support with age and use," Breus says. He recommends buying a new mattress at least every 7 years. Buy a new mattress even more often if you have severe back or joint pain.
Research suggests a more flexible mattress eases back pain better than an ultra-firm one.
Once a year, swap out your pillows. Choose a thick one if you're a side sleeper, a flatter one if you like to doze on your belly.
Insomnia and hot flashes go hand-in-hand for 61% of menopausal women. But even if your internal body temperature isn't heating up, a too-hot room can have you awake and kicking off the covers at 2 a.m.
"The sweet spot for sleep seems to be somewhere between 68 and 74 degrees," says Tracey Marks, MD. She's the author of Master Your Sleep: Proven Methods Simplified.
So if you find you're overheated during the night, turn down the thermostat.
Also, some foods and drinks can rev your metabolism and make you sweat more in the middle of the night. So avoid eating or drinking these too close to bedtime:
- Spicy or acidic foods
- Caffeinated drinks