Sleep experts say we should get seven to nine hours each night. But as many as one-third of Americans sleep for less than six hours regularly.
Athletes, in particular, require sufficient sleep — not only to recover between games or workout but to improve their overall performance, as well.
Whether you’re an athlete or not, here’s how you can start getting better sleep tonight.
1. Choose a quality mattress. A good night’s rest starts with the mattress you sleep on, so if you’re not sleeping well, changing your mattress could make a world of difference. Most of us know that we should replace a mattress at least every 10 years. But how do you choose the right one?
For starters, a mattress should provide firm but comfortable support to keep your spine in alignment while sleeping on your side or on your back. When you lie down, your mattress should give you a sense of floating, not sinking. Memory foam mattresses are a great choice because they conform to your body’s shape and eliminate pressure points.
You should also choose a mattress that will help you sleep cool and provide the same feel no matter the room temperature. Finally, be sure to pair your mattress with the correct pillow to keep your body aligned.
2. Eat to sleep. Outside of foods that fuel you, there are a variety of foods that can help support relaxation and better sleep. Tryptophan, the amino acid that’s abundant in turkey, can do more than put us into a mild food coma after Thanksgiving dinner. It also helps us relax and repair. Bananas and lentils are also good tryptophan sources and provide additional relaxing minerals like magnesium and potassium.
Carbohydrates, in moderation, can aid sleep. Don’t eat too much before bed, however, as the extra digestive efforts can negatively affect sleep quality.
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3. Support your sleep with natural supplements. When choosing supplements for quality, restorative sleep, look for those that help ease tension, support deep sleep, and — most importantly—promote physical regeneration:
• L-theanine enables the body to produce other calming amino acids, such as dopamine, GABA and tryptophan, and helps support concentration, focus, deep muscle relaxation, and improved quality sleep.
• Ashwagandha contains active constituents called glycowithanolides, which mimic certain corticosteroids, supporting healthy cortisol levels and the circadian rhythm.
• Melatonin supports sleep onset, quality of sleep, increased REM time, deep sleep, and dreaming — all factors that lead to better quality sleep and produce greater mental, physical and emotional rejuvenation. Melatonin can decrease the amount of time required to fall asleep, increase the number of sleeping hours and support daytime alertness. I recommend taking just 5 mg of melatonin, as too much can impair the body’s natural production, and may cause you to become dependent on the artificial form.
4. Put your devices away. At bedtime, your electronic devices can lead to unwanted alertness due to changes in your eyes and brain, as well as the suppression of melatonin by the bright light emanating from screens. These physical reactions ultimately lead to sleeplessness.
As a rule of thumb for getting better sleep, turn off your electronic devices at least 30 minutes prior to heading to bed. Rather than scrolling through social media or camping out with Netflix, do something that doesn’t involve exposure to a screen, like meditating or reading your favorite magazine.
If making changes to your sleeping habits sounds daunting, start small. Choose one action to incorporate into your routine tonight, and then make gradual changes as the nights continue on.
You’ll be sleeping soundly in no time.
Dr. Silverman is a frequent guest speaker at ZONIA – a video streaming platform for health and wellness. To access his videos and those of many other experts join ZONIA for FREE today.
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