Jun 08, 2010
In our over-stressed, over-weight, sleep-deprived society, there’s a tendency for experts to offer you the latest, greatest, high-tech, and usually expensive advice when you want to get better sleep. From the new Zeo (which measures your brain waves while you sleep), to $3,000 mattresses with reclining features and NASA engineered memory foam, there’s an unlimited number of gadgets and devices that promise to give you a better nights’ sleep.
But before you consider these expensive options, try the following 5 quick and easy tips to help you sleep better for free, or at a relatively low cost.
Tip #1: Avoid Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is a major cause of poor sleep, especially if you eat just before going to bed. If you have a sleep-breathing problem, this condition becomes even worse, since stomach juices are actively being suctioned up into your throat every time you stop breathing. In sleep apnea patients, vacuum forces are created in the throat with each obstruction, which forces normal stomach juices into the throat.
Two of the most common ways of treating this condition is to either take acid reflux medications, or sleep inclined, with your upper body angled up. Before you invest in an expensive adjustable bed that can incline your body upwards, just stop eating close to bedtime. Make sure you stop eating at least 3-4 hours before you go to bed. This way, even if you do stop breathing, you won’t have as much stomach juices that can come up into your throat (which also includes bile, digestive enzymes, and bacteria).
Take Power Naps
There are tons of research studies that tout the benefits of taking short naps in the mid to late afternoon. Our bodies naturally have sleepy tendencies during this time, so why not take advantage of it? It’s been shown that not only will you have more energy for the remainder of the day, but your chances of heart disease and dying early can be lowered if you nap regularly.
If you have a sleep-breathing problem, like obstructive sleep apnea, make sure you don’t sleep longer than 30 to 45 minutes. Sleep-deprived people tend to go into REM sleep earlier than the 90 to 120 minutes it normally takes to reach REM sleep. This is when your muscles relax the most and you’ll be more likely to have obstructive events.
Take Breathing Lessons
Deep breathing exercises have been shown scientifically to calm your nervous system. Thy is why people who engage in yoga, tai chi, or any other discipline that teaches proper breathing techniques feel so much more relaxed.
If you don’t have time or the funds to take classes on a regular basis, make it a point to take 4-5 slow deep breaths every 1-2 hours, especially when you’re transitioning from one activity to another, or if you’re feeling stressed. You can also make it a habit to meditate on your deep breathing anytime you’re waiting on the phone, standing inline, walking somewhere.
Take A Media Vacation
Modern humans are inundated with too much information. Too much news coming from too many sources can lead to information overload, not to mention anxiety-provoking states that keep your mind racing before you go to sleep at night. Turn off the TV, don’t read the paper, check email only once a day, and limit surfing the internet. Think of it as a cleansing that empties your mind of needless clutter. The world will go on without you if you don’t know what’s going on.
Undergo Natural Phototherapy
Rather than investing in bright light boxes or suntan sessions, expose yourself to more sunlight. Early morning sunlight is the best time since it’s not as intense, and exposing your eyes to light at this time helps to strengthen your sleep clock. This is also the best time to exercise outdoors, if you have the time.
If you’re already supplementing with vitamin D and calcium, exposing yourself to more natural sunlight can help to optimize theses supplements’ beneficial effects. Don’t worry too much about skin cancer, since sleeping better can help to fight off cancer.
These 5 tips are some of the many free or inexpensive ways that you can get better sleep. Without laying the foundations for these fundamental sleep habits, sleeping pills, beds, pillows, and gadgets won’t ultimately help you sleep better in the long run.
Steven Y. Park, MD is a surgeon and author of the book, Sleep, Interrupted: A physician reveals the #1 reason why so many of us are sick and tired. Endorsed by New York Times best-selling authors Christiane Northrup, M.D., Dean Ornish, M.D., Mark Liponis, M.D., Mary Shomon, and many others. http://doctorstevenpark.com