If you toss and turn your way from midnight to morning, you’re missing out on some of the great health and wellness benefits of sleep. UR Medicine sleep expert Dr. Jonathan Marcus offers six steps to help you make restful nights a priority.
- Sleep only as much as you need to feel refreshed the following day. It’s important to not spend too much time in bed trying to sleep. Excessively long times in bed can lead to fragmented (waking up a lot) and shallow sleep. Most adults need 7 to 8-1/2 hours of sleep per night.
- Get up at the same time every morning. Do this even on weekends and holidays. This helps to set your “biological clock.”
- Exercise regularly. Exercise improves the quality of sleep, allowing you to fall asleep and stay asleep more easily. Many people do best to exercise during the morning or daytime hours, and should avoid exercise within three hours of bedtime. However, others find that evening exercise will help them improve their sleep. Go ahead, experiment with the timing of your exercise. You should always talk to your doctor before you begin an exercise program.
- Make your bedroom quiet, cool and dark. An easy way to remember this: your bedroom should remind you of a cave. While this may not sound romantic, it seems to work for bats. Bats are champion sleepers, getting about 16 hours of sleep each day. Maybe it’s because they sleep in dark, cool caves.
- Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy. If you aren’t sleepy at bedtime, do something else. Read a book, listen to soft music, or browse through a magazine. Find something relaxing, but not stimulating, to take your mind off of worries about sleep. This will relax your body and distract your mind.
- Turn your alarm clock around. Clock-watching can lead to worry, frustration and anger—all of which can interfere with a good night’s sleep.
Jonathan A. Marcus, M.D., is a fellowship-trained sleep medicine expert with UR Medicine and an assistant professor of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He cares for patients at UR Medicine’s Strong West, 156 West Ave., Brockport.