Research has shown that while we sleep, our body repairs its cells, and our dreams help us to solve problems.
Sleep deprivation inhibits our ability to think and remember information and can lead to serious health problems such as diabetes, heart problems, depression, and obesity.
For most adults, the ideal amount of sleep is 7 to 9 hours per night, but sleep needs vary from person to person. Some can get by on as little as 5 hours per night, while others need at least 10 to remain alert.
Most teenagers require at least 9 hours of sleep per night, but some can require as many as 12. Children need the most: preschoolers aged 3 to 5 need 11 to 13 hours, while those aged 6-12 need about 10 to 11.
Make your bedroom a cozy haven from the outside world.
Use soothing colors in relaxing tones such as blue-grey and moss green.
Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable. You should have plenty of room to stretch; if your feet hang over the end, get a larger frame. If you have a sore back or neck, invest in a supportive mattress or pillow. You might also want to try an egg-crate foam topper. If you have allergies, use hypoallergenic bedding.
Melatonin is the natural hormone that regulates the sleep cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it's dark, and over-exposure to artificial light from lamps, television, and computers can interrupt your sleep cycle. Sleep in a darkened room; cover electrical displays such as those from digital alarm clocks, phone chargers, and nightlights, or use an eye mask. Turn off your TV, computer, and backlit devices such as iPods and eReaders.
Spend more time in natural light during the day keeping curtains open, move closer to windows, or exercise outdoors to regulate your melatonin production cycle.
A cool 60 degrees is the optimal sleeping temperature for most people. Turn your thermostat down at night, turn on a fan, or open a window.
If your room is too dry, keeping you from sleeping well and giving you a scratchy throat in the morning, install a humidifier.
Block out noise and distractions. Turn off your cell phone. Use a bedside fan or white-noise machine to block out disturbance. If you listen to music, make it something soothing.
A messy room is not conducive to rest. Declutter your bedroom to make it relaxing.
Your bedding is very important in ensuring you get a good night's sleep. It has the job of keeping you warm and comfortable while you sleep. Choose a comforter that will keep you at a comfortable temperature, you will want to look at the warmth rating. If you live in a tropical location, comforters with a lower warmth rating will be a better choice. If you live in an area where the climate is cold go for a higher warmth rating. Preferences on warmth rating will vary between individuals as some people are warmer sleepers than other. Down comforters are generally the most comfortable; however they may not be suitable for allergy suffers, a down alternative comforter may be considered.
Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time, even on weekends. If you're having trouble finding your rhythm, find a few weeks to experiment with your sleep cycle. Go to bed as soon as you feel sleepy, and wake up to natural light without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock, you may need to set an earlier bedtime. If you want to change your bedtime, adjust slowly by making small, 15-minute changes each day. It might take a while to discover your ideal schedule, but once you do, stick to it.
Develop a calming nightly routine that you start about an hour before bedtime. Your routine can include meditation, yoga, gentle stretching, deep breathing, a warm bath, or soft music.
Exercise can help you sleep, but intense exercise is stimulating, so allow at least two hours between exercising and bedtime.
Once you're in bed, try not to worry about sleep. Keep paper and pen next to your bed; if something is bothering you, write it down and try to forget about it until morning.
If you can't sleep, stay in bed and do something repetitious or tedious like counting sheep or try telling your body to go to sleep one part at a time, starting with your head.
If you still can't sleep after fifteen minutes of that, get out of bed and read, write a letter, or do some other quiet activity. Once you start to get sleepy, go back to bed and try a relaxation technique.
Chemicals, drugs, and medications can all affect your ability to fall or stay asleep. A major culprit is caffeine, found in coffee, chocolate, tea, and many soft drinks.
Alcohol is a depressant and might seem to help you fall asleep, but its effects can wear off after a few hours, leaving you tossing and turning.
The tobacco in cigarettes, cigars, and other smoking products is a stimulant and can keep you awake.
Medications can also lead to insomnia, especially those for colds and allergies, high blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid disease, and depression. Talk to your doctor about any medication that you feel may be affecting your sleep and follow their guidance.
Ironically, sleeping pills can also disrupt your sleeping rhythm.
Try not to take naps. They can make you less tired at your regular bedtime. Instead, keep awake by exercising.
Finish eating at least two to three hours before your regular bedtime. If you're hungry, have a glass of warm milk and a slice of whole grain bread. Fermented foods such as cheddar cheese and salami are a source of tyrosine, which some scientists believe causes people to stay awake.
Long-term insomnia can be a symbol of medical and mental problems such as allergies, asthma, apnea, and clinical depression. If you are having long-term sleeping difficulties with symptoms such as snoring, leg cramps, or difficulty breathing, see your doctor. Keep a sleep diary and show it to your physician.