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5 tips to help you get more and better sleep
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5 tips to help you get more and better sleep

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This pandemic has impacted everything, so it’s no surprise that it has affected our sleep.

We’re worried about everyone in our lives, we’re drinking too much alcohol and coffee, and even when we’re in bed, we’re often not experiencing good quality sleep.

Psychologist Michael Breus notes that it makes perfect sense people are facing sleep problems. “We’re just not able to handle this level of stress, and of course it’s coming out in our sleep,” he says.

Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. And that refers to quality, not just quantity.

Many people might feel like they need more sleep, even if they are getting what would have been considered a healthy amount a year ago. That’s because amid pandemic stressors, people are getting light and fragmented sleep, says Breus, author of “Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health.”

The good news: It’s the perfect time to reassess sleeping patterns, Breus says. We already know to limit screen time before bed and to stick to a routine.

Here are some more tips.

Sleep

Wake up at the same time every day

For many people, working at home has meant sleeping later and later, rolling out of bed and walking to the home office in a baseball hat and sweats. But keeping a routine and schedule is even more important now, Breus says.

“We have an irregular sleep schedule going on because of the pandemic,” he says. “Now would be the perfect time to have a good sleep schedule.” Even on weekends, he adds.

Set a cutoff for caffeine and booze

We know that caffeine and alcohol can impact sleep. Unfortunately, with many people at home throughout the day, it’s easier to return to the kitchen coffee pot, or start happy hour earlier. People might think alcohol helps them sleep, Breus says, but it really just anesthetizes.

“I usually say there’s a really big difference between going to sleep and passing out.” He suggests quitting caffeine by 2 p.m., and finishing your last drink at least three hours before bed.

So think about a drink or two between 5 and 7 p.m., with plenty of water, and going to bed at 10 p.m.

Get out for exercise

Exercise is consistently linked to better sleep. Try to exercise at least four hours before bed, Breus suggests.

“The more you exercise, the higher your quality of sleep,” he says. “You don’t have to run a marathon.”

For example, in the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 report on sleep, about 56% of people who did not exercise said they had very good or fairly good sleep; for people who vigorously exercised, 83% reported good sleep, and even 76% of light exercisers reported good sleep.

Improve your sleep space

Mary Pat Wallace, founder of The Luxury Bed Collection, has studied sleep since she herself was a mom of small children. She realized loss of sleep was sapping her productivity. She encourages a technology-free bedroom, or cutting out electronics at least an hour before bedtime. Make sure the temperature is between 65 and 70 degrees.

For your bed, think about dressing it the same way you would dress at that temperature. She suggests a sheet, a thin blanket and comforter or duvet system. “It works just like seasonal dressing — the right layers will keep you comfortable,” she says.

Pillow and mattress work together; check your alignment. If you sleep on your side, your spine should be in a straight line, parallel to the mattress. If you sleep on your back, you should feel supported throughout the spine’s curve, no lower-back gap.

Have a plan to get back to sleep

Many people might wake up in the middle of the night and ruminate, finding it hard to get back to sleep. Have a plan so that this is not a scary or frustrating time.

First, realize even being in bed can be rejuvenating, whether you sleep or not. Second, don’t look at the clock. “Everybody does,” Breus says. “They instantly do the mental math.”

Instead, Breus says to flip the script to lessen pressure and remove anxiety. “Say, this is awesome. It’s 2:37 in the morning, I have to get up at 6:30, I’ve got four more hours. Who knows, maybe I’ll get some more sleep. I know if I lie here, I’m still going to get some level of rejuvenation. And let’s be honest, I’ve had no sleep before, and I’ve made it through my day.”

RELATED: 10 commandments for better sleep

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