Leonardo da Vinci did it two hours a day when creating the Mona Lisa. Margaret Thatcher put in four hours, while Einstein was a regular 10 hours. The activity is something we all do for a good portion of our lives—and that is sleep.
When we were babies, we slept about 16 hours a day. As teens, it was roughly 9. As adults, it seems that 7 to 8 is the average, although some people need as few as 5 hours while other require 10.
Despite our need for it, it’s sometimes difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Our day to day responsibilities, work, family commitments and traumatic events such as the loss of a loved one can make it difficult for us to sleep. Yet, we need good sleep to keep our brains functioning correctly and for good health.
What can we do if we find ourselves struggling to get a good night’s rest?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, here are some tips to help you establish and keep good sleeping habits:
- Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety.
- If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day but can disrupt sleep at night.
- Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity.
- Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and heavy meals in the evening. These items can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep.
- Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
- If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It’s best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional.