How To Get Better SleepHow To Get Better Sleep

Sleep patterns often change as we grow older, but aging doesn’t mean we have to suffer with insomnia. Many sleep issues can be solved with DIY actions, and doctors can help with more complicated sleep issues. In honor of Better Sleep Month this May, here are tried and true self-care suggestions for better sleep at any age, and tips on when it’s time to see a doctor about your canceled trips to the Land of Nod.

Seven self-care steps for better sleep

When our sleep patterns change, it’s often because something else in our lives has changed. Maybe we’re exercising less or spending more time reading online before bed. Think about recent changes that may be impacting your sleep, and see if any of these self-care measures will help you rest better.

1. Get moving.

Daily exercise can help regulate your body’s sleep/wake cycles and prevent the feeling that you’re just not tired enough to sleep. A daily walk or swim is ideal, but seated exercises can have a similar effect. Don’t work out too close to bedtime, as that may leave you wired and restless.

2. Avoid the “blue light special.”

The kind of blue light emitted by many computer screens and handheld devices can affect your body’s sleep cycle and cause you to stay awake long past the point when you would naturally fall asleep. Sleep experts recommend shutting off screens 2-3 hours before bed.

3. Skip late-night snacks.

They can cause acid reflux during the night.

4. Clear the air.

An air purifier will remove sniffle-inducing pollen and pet dander and it can function as a white noise machine.

5. Make time to unwind.

Half an hour of quiet activity such as gentle yoga, meditation, knitting or stargazing can help your mind relax for sleep.

6. Get comfortable.

Replace lumpy pillows and pilled bedding, and if your mattress is past its prime, invest in a new one. Mattress shopping doesn’t have to be the showroom ordeal it once was – companies like Casper and Amazon will deliver to your door. Casper will even take their product back if you don’t like it after a few weeks. If overheating is a problem, try breathable “performance” sheets designed to keep you cool and wick away moisture while you sleep.

7. Quiet down.

If outside noises disturb your sleep, consider earplugs. They can take some getting used to but can be effective.

Signs it’s time to talk to your doctor

If the noises keeping you awake come from your snoring bed partner or housemate, encourage them to get screened for sleep apnea. The same advice goes for you if you snore. Modern CPAP machines for apnea patients are nearly silent, so snorers and everyone around them can sleep better.

If pain keeps you awake or wakes you when you move, book a massage and check with your doctor about pain management techniques.

And if you’ve tried everything and are still awake, ask your doctor about melatonin and other sleep aids. Melatonin is often recommended as a supplement for people with sleep problems and carries few side effects. Prescription sleep meds can be effective in the short term, but aren’t intended for long-term use due to the risk of habit formation and side effects.

Whatever your sleep issue, try not to get stressed or anxious about it, as that can start a cycle that makes it harder to sleep. With a relaxed approach, some self-care, and medical help when necessary, most of us can experience a good night’s sleep.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.


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