As many as 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder and it's one of the most common complaints received in the medical community. If you’ve been tossing and turning, take back control with this challenge. Discover how to regulate your sleep cycle to ensure you’re getting quality rest.
Now's the time to identify your biggest lifestyle choices that could be affecting how you sleep. Are you a smoker? If so, then this is just another reason why it's time to quit. Several studies have linked cigarette smoking with instances of disturbed sleep. This includes the effects of nicotine and nicotine withdrawal on sleep, the link between smoking and snoring and a tendency for non-smokers to be more alert and energized in the morning.
Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death in the US and that's primarily because it boosts your risk for cardiovascular disease. Smoking cigarettes raises blood pressure, increases the tendency for blood to clot, decreases good cholesterol, and makes it harder for you to get the vital exercise your heart needs. All of this makes cigarette smoking one of the greatest causes of coronary heart disease. The first step in your commitment to health is to quit. Take Dr. Oz’s Kick the Habit Challenge now.
Smoking isn't the only lifestyle factor that can drastically affect how you're sleeping; alcohol consumption, anxiety, stress, being overweight or obese, lack of physical activity, certain medications and caffeine intake can all prohibit a sound sleep.
Go on Sleep Surveillance
Examine your daily routine. Do you have coffee everyday at 4pm to beat the afternoon slump? Do you have more than 1 alcoholic beverage a day? Do you eat dinner after 8pm? Do you workout? Do you generally go to bed/wake up at the same time each day? Take note of these behaviors. Identifying them now will help you along your search for sleep. Keep a sleep diary, making sure to note: what you were doing before bed; when you went to bed and when you woke up; how long it took you to fall asleep; the time you spent, if any, napping during the day.
Recently, the National Sleep Foundation asked people what kept them up at night, and it's no surprise that the most popular answers included financial worries, job stress and relationship stress. At the most basic biological level, the brain perceives these problems as threats it needs to process, deal with and solve; it can't turn off its alert system so that your sleep drive can take over. Eliminating the stress in your life might seem like an impossible task. And it is. Instead of eliminating stress, trying minimizing it by employing effective coping mechanisms.
Commit to a Meditative Practice
Commit to a practice that improves flexibility, strength, heart rate and peace of mind. Click here to view Dr. Oz’s 20-minute beginner yoga guide and here to get first-hand meditation tips from expert Deepak Chopra. Choose the practice that’s best for you and make it part of your daily or weekly routine. On your off days, or days when you're just feeling off, learn to de-stress in just 5 minutes.
Take 10,000 Steps Per Day
One of the best ways to get rid of stress before you bring it into the bedroom is to exercise. Start with Dr. Oz's daily mantra: Take 10,000 steps a day – that’s roughly the equivalent of walking 5 miles. If you’re already exercising, make sure that your routine includes both cardio and strength training. Click here to see the 7-minute workout Dr. Oz does every morning.
All health improvements benefit from keeping a schedule. Whether that's working out everyday before work, stretching every night before bed or automating your meals, creating a schedule helps you to be prepared, and therefore, less susceptible to excuses, lapses and temptations.
Set a Sleep Schedule
Set a bedtime that works with your schedule, both during the week and on weekends, and stick to it.
4-6 hours before bed, do not eat or drink anything containing caffeine
2-3 hours before bed, do not eat a full meal
60 minutes before bed, turn off all electronics (unless you are a doctor on call, blackberries, cell phones and pagers should not enter the bedroom) and dim the lights. In the middle of your brain is something called the pineal gland. It releases melatonin, the hormone that readies the mind and body for sleep in response to lowered light levels.
30 minutes before bed, have something to drink. Water is preferable, but warm milk can help soothe you to sleep.
5 minutes before bed, make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and slightly cool. The ideal sleeping temperature is 65°F.
Wake up at the same time every day, during the week and on weekends
Helpful hint: Reserve the bedroom for sleep and sex only. You are strengthening the association between your bed and sleep. Do not bring work into the bed, watch TV, talk on the telephone, or perform any other wakeful activities.
The one-third of your life that should be spent sound asleep can cause serious harm to your back and your overall health. Whether you're a side sleeper, stomach sleeper or back sleeper, here's a breakdown of how to get in a prime position for better sleep.
Position Yourself for Success
Side Sleepers This is the best position for a healthy night's sleep. It helps protect the alignment of your back's 3 major curves: the lower back, middle back and lower neck. Improper side sleeping can result in the over-constriction of shoulder and neck muscles. To avoid pelvic rotation and lower spine contortion, place a fluffy pillow between your knees. A second fluffy pillow can also be used to fill the space between your ear and the outer edge of your shoulder to equally support both sides of the neck.
Back Sleepers Never use a fluffy pillow if this your favored sleeping position - it pushes the head forward in an uncomfortable reversal of your neck's natural curve, resulting in neck pain, headaches and decreased breathing capacity. Use a thin pillow under your head and a lumbar pillow to maintain the natural curve of your spine. Money-saving tip: create your own by rolling up a bath towel.
Stomach Sleepers This is the worst sleep position for your spine. Turning your head to one side distorts the alignment of the spine and neck, leading to chronic lower back pain, neck pain and headaches. In addition, your body weight compresses the lungs, impeding their ability to breathe fully and deeply. The best solution for stomach sleeping? Change to side- or back-sleeping if you can. If you can't use a very thin, flat pillow to minimize the above side effects.
More often than not, we are awakened at least once a night: we can't keep ourselves from waking, but we can help ourselves to go back to sleep.
Go Back to Sleep
Keep a notebook and pen on your bedside table. Begin writing to-dos and reminders an hour before bed so that you aren't compiling a mental list for the next day. If you awake suddenly remembering an important task, write it down rather than trying to commit it to memory.
Try counting backwards from 300 by 3s. Simple math can keep our thoughts from wondering and yet isn't so difficult that it will frustrate you.
If you're still awake after 15 minutes, get up and do something quiet, like reading a book. You have to let your body and mind slow down to be able to slip into sleep - so that means quiet activities only.
Sleep involves several stages: REM sleep is accompanied by vivid dreams and memory consolidation; the third and fourth stages of sleep are deep and restorative. Each night you cycle through these stages. When you hit the snooze button, you alternate between wakefulness and light sleep, which might feel comforting - but there is no physical or mental benefit from this.
You Snooze, You Lose
One surefire way to fight your fatigue is to ban the snooze button. You've decided what time you are going to get up every day - and that does not mean 15 minutes early and snoozing until it's time to get out of bed.
Ditch the caffeine and find alternative ways to boost your energy, like aromatherapy, exercise and spicy foods. Aromatherapy can wake up certain parts of the brain, and by inhaling some fresh lemon you can give yourself a lemon lift without spending $5 at Starbucks.
Another tip is to counteract the energy drain caused by a heavy lunch with a preemptive multivitamin. Vitamins C and E open arteries and increase circulation; heavy meals laden with fat constrict arteries and make you sleepier.
Boost your energy by taking D-ribose, or ribose, daily. Some research has found that natural D-ribose supplements can significantly improve energy. It's available in pill or powder form and is an essential energy source for your cells.