The ABCs of Getting More ZZZs
Not getting enough sleep? You’re not alone.
Sleep deprivation is a common problem, with one in four people having sleep difficulties, from a restless or unsatisfying sleep to insomnia.
If you don’t get a decent amount of shut eye, how does your mind and body react? Do you experience brain fog and clumsiness? A good night’s sleep will allow your body to repair and be ready for the next day. Conversely, a poor sleep takes a serious toll on your daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance, and even your weight.
Sleep is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet.
It is essential for brain functioning, increasing knowledge retention, polishing long- and short-term memory, as well as boosting immune systems and building resistance to infectious diseases. Given the current global health crisis, sleep has arguably never been more important to our physical and mental wellbeing.
If you’re tired of tossing and turning at night, we have tips to help you enjoy a better sleep, boost your health, and improve how you think and feel during the day. We curated expert advice from leading health professionals and sleep specialists* to create what we call the ABCs of getting more ZZZs.
Top Ways to Improve your Sleep
Establish a bedtime routine.
Getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is one of the most important strategies for sleeping better. A bedtime routine cues your body that it’s time to go to sleep.
Pro Tip: Don’t force yourself into bed at a particular time if you’re not feeling sleepy. You’ll only lie awake in bed, frustrated that you can’t sleep.
Relax your mind and body.
Before you turn in for the night, take a hot bath (90 minutes before you plan to go to bed), listen to calming music, do a relaxation exercise or mediate.
Create a comfortable sleep environment.
Make sure you have a firm, supportive mattress and fresh, comfortable bedding. Also, minimize noise, block out light and keep your room at a slightly cool temperature (around 65° F or 18° C).
Control your exposure to light.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark, making you sleepy, and less when it’s light, making you more alert. For this reason, spend time outside during daylight, let light into your home or office space, and limit light at night, making sure your room is dark when it’s time for shuteye.
Avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime.
The blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer, or TV is especially disruptive. You can minimize the impact by using devices with smaller screens, turning the brightness down, or using light-altering software.
Once you’re under the covers, try to avoid reading, watching television, working, or studying. These activities keep your mind active, which gets in the way of a sound sleep. Try deep breathing exercises or a calming app instead.
Have a snack.
Although a heavy meal late in the evening can disrupt sleep, a healthy light snack before bed can actually improve sleep. Try eating light cheese and crackers, or drink a warm glass of milk –avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods that can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.
Avoid consuming caffeine at least four hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant and cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it!
Establish a fixed awakening time.
This helps set your body’s internal clock and enhance the quality of your sleep. Try waking up at the same time every day (even on weekends) no matter how well or how poorly you have slept. This way your body will begin to get used to a regular sleep rhythm — and you won’t need an alarm clock!
Skip the Nap.
While napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, naps can interfere with normal sleep cycles. That way, your body will be more tired when it’s bedtime.
Pro Tip: If you need to nap, limit nap times to 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon. This allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm.
People who exercise tend to have more restful sleep. Regular exercise (at least 30 minutes three times a week) also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep.
Pro tip: But be sure to take a walk or run in the late afternoon or early evening for best results and not too close to bedtime.
Chart Your Progress.
Use a sleep diary to keep track of your weekly progress to identify what’s working best for you in getting those all-important ZZZs.
Pick a strategy and stick to it. Try to do the same thing every night and remember these strategies can take time. Be patient, hang in there and sweet dreams!
Still can’t sleep?
Consult a health care professional through your Employee Assistance Program or have a virtual doctor visit through our digital health platform, Connected Care.