5 Methods to Improve Sleep

Did you know that adults should aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night? How close are you to reaching this goal? A poor sleep schedule won't just leave you feeling groggy and slow each morning, it could have some very real health risks. Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can lead to an increased risk of heart attack, hypertension, stroke, diabetes and other potential health issues.

Of course, if you don't want to rely on sleeping pills and other prescription sleep aids, various lifestyle and behavioral changes can make a major difference.

Here are a fewtips on how you can transform your sleep schedule from FSAstore.com:

Pre-sleep relaxation

Before heading to bed, we may have a tendency to catch up on our favorite TV shows or surf the web on our mobile devices - but this will dramatically inhibit the body's ability to wind down and achieve restful sleep. Photoreceptors in the retina sense light and dark and regulate the body's circadian rhythms that allow us to be alert in the morning and wind down in the evening. Various studies have shown that light emitted from digital devices can interfere with the sleep cycle, so it's advisable to read or relax for an hour before bed to allow your brain to wind down and prepare for sleep.

Regular exercise

We all know that joining a gym or setting aside time each day to exercise can be a major boost to your health, but it can aid your sleep regimen as well. Releasing some of that pent-up energy during the day can help you achieve a deeper, more restful sleep. However, be sure to avoid exercising too closely to bedtime as physical activity can be stimulating and you may be too energized to fall asleep quickly. Aim to complete all physical activity 4 hours before hitting the sack.

Reorganize your master bedroom

Is your bedroom as conducive to sleeping as it could be? Your master bedroom should be a space where the primary aim is to promote relaxation and eliminate outside distractions. First, the room should be at a cool temperature, between 60 to 67 degrees, as well as including blackout shades to eliminate any light filtering into the room that could interfere with sleep. Experiment with humidifiers, ear plugs, eye masks, white noise machines and anything else that can benefit your sleep schedule.

Regulate caffeine intake

Most of us can't imagine getting through the day without a morning cup of coffee, or even without the 2 pm cup to push through late afternoon fatigue. However, caffeine is a very strong stimulant that can stay in your body for hours, which can prevent you from entering a deep sleep or falling asleep altogether. Doctors advise against caffeine intake for at least 8 hours before going to bed to achieve optimal sleep.

Watch what you eat

Heading to bed when you're hungry or completely full can also interfere with your sleep, as the discomfort of either state can keep you up. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time between dinner and bedtime to fully digest, and if you do decide to have a late snack, stick with foods that combine carbohydrates, as well as either calcium or a protein that contains the amino acid tryptophan. These foods can boost the body's production of serotonin, which brings about a state of calm that can help you sleep. Cheese, crackers, yogurt, milk or peanut butter are great options to eat an hour before bedtime.

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