National Sleep Day

January 4, 2012 10:14:40 AM PST
January 3rd has been set aside as "National Sleep Day." With the holidays over, it's a new year and time to turn over a new leaf. For some, making a resolution of getting more sleep is impossible to accomplish. However, everyone can get a better night's sleep. Dr. Phyllis Zee, with Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Sleep Disorders Center, has some easy ways to create a better sleeping environment.

Dr. Zee's Top Tips:

1. You want to make sure your entire sleep environment is comfortable.
2. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, cool, and comfortable.
3. Temperature is really important- keep the room on the cooler side.
4. Make sure your mattress is not sagging and you are not waking up with back pain.
5. You need a pillow that really supports your head and neck- for some people it could be a firm pillow, for others a soft pillow.
6. Some people may benefit from having a humidifier in the room in the winter time if the air is dry. An air purifier is a good addition if the specific person has allergies.
7. A sound machine can be helpful if you are living in a noisy environment, which can help soothe and relax.
8. There is really little scientific data regarding aromatherapy having an effect on sleep. If it makes someone feel calmer then it could help one fall asleep.
9. It is important to not feel cold- wear socks and keep your extremities warm.
10. Soda, tea and some energy drinks that contain caffeine and should be avoided in the late afternoon and evening- caffeine will keep you awake. As with caffeine, alcohol can cause you to wake more often. Cut off alcohol a couple hours before bedtime as well.
11. Drinking a lot of fluids, caffeinated, alcoholic or otherwise, will cause you to wake frequently too because you'll have to urinate more.

Dr. Zee says the routines you take and what you do to prepare for sleep are important.

  • Consistency is key - Stick to a regular bed time, setting your internal clock helps your body auto-start the sleep process accordingly.
  • Bedroom boundaries - Make sure the bedroom is only for going to sleep. It shouldn't be a place to watch TV, have your office/do work, surf the Internet or eat. That way your body knows that when you get into bed, it's time to go to sleep.
  • Work up a sweat - Exercise can give your body something to rest from and help you stay asleep at night. To allow enough wind-down time, it's best to complete exercise at least two to three hours before going to bed. Strenuous exercise too close to bedtime can affect your ability to fall asleep because it raises your body temperature.
  • Set the stage - Allow yourself an hour before bed to wind down. Take a hot shower then get into a cool bed. The drop in your body's temperature after taking a hot shower and entering a cooler room is a process that naturally mimics day and night, and may help guide you to sleep. Put your thoughts to bed - Jot down your to-do list for the next day and keep it near the bed to avoid racing thoughts that can prevent you from falling and staying asleep.
  • Relax - Avoid activities such as going online or watching TV that will hold your interest and keep you engaged. Even the small amount of light from a computer screen in the evening hours can stimulate your brain into thinking it is time to be awake. Listening to music or reading something that you find mindless in a dimly lit area may help you feel sleepy.