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7 Tips to Improve Sleep

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Do a Relaxation Exercise

Taking a few minutes to do a short relaxation exercise just before getting into bed is an excellent way of letting go. This doesnít have to be elaborate. Great benefits can be gained by simply lying on your back in the corpse pose (hands at your sides, palms upward, feet slightly apart). Close your eyes, and systematically address every part of your body. Start at your scalp and move toward your toes. Begin by softening your forehead, eyes, face, and jaw. Tensing and then releasing each muscle group help tight muscles loosen, especially those in the neck and shoulders. Continue giving attention to each area of your bodyóthe arms, the trunk, and the legsóuntil you reach your toes. Surrender to gravity.

Stay in this relaxed state for a few minutes, letting the floor support you. Focus on your breathing, releasing all other concerns. Let your breath come from deep in your abdomen, and let it flow smoothly, slowly, and evenly. This simple exercise is a way of telling your mind and body that it is OK to stop thinking, working, and struggling.

Pay Attention to What You Ingest

Itís best to eat a light meal in the evening, especially if you are dining late. You will sleep more deeply if you have finished digesting your food before you go to bed. A rich, heavy meal close to bedtime will interfere with your rest and leave you feeling sluggish in the morning.

Avoid caffeine, especially after midday. This includes coffee, tea, chocolate, and many sodas. Coffee has a half-life of four to six hours. That means it takes that long for half of the coffee to be digested, and another four to six hours for the next quarter of it to be eliminated from your body. In other words, it takes twelve to fourteen hours for 7⁄8 of the coffee you have ingested to be eliminated. No wonder you still feel wide awake at eleven when you had your last cup after dinner.

Sugar can also cause problems. Consider avoiding refined sugar in the evening because it is absorbed immediately into the bloodstream. Thatís why it gives you a burst of energy and sometimes makes you feel a little high. Eating sugar near bedtime can make you restless and jittery and can keep you from falling asleep. If you need a treat at bedtime, a glass of warm milk is your best bet.

Alcohol and tobacco taken near bedtime can also interfere with deep sleep. Itís true that a nightcap will make you sleepy, but the sleep it induces is light, restless, and shot through with periods of wakefulness. Likewise, you may associate tobacco with relaxation, but it actually increases tension. Tobacco is a stimulant that makes the heart race and blood pressure rise. Itís best avoided altogether, but if you choose to smoke, avoiding it in the hour or two before bedtime will make your sleep more restful.

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Megan, selected from Yoga+ Magazine

Yoga International is an award-winning, independent magazine that contemplates the deeper dimensions of spiritual life--exploring the power of yoga practice and philosophy to not only transform our bodies and minds, but inspire meaningful engagement in our society, environment, and the global community.

95 comments

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12:30AM PDT on May 27, 2013

I like, "End the day with a calming routine".

2:44PM PDT on May 8, 2013

noted

4:46AM PDT on Apr 26, 2013

Thank you :)

1:19AM PDT on Mar 15, 2013

thanks

2:11PM PDT on Mar 13, 2013

Dobrze powiedzieć, nie panikuj, ale trudniej wykonać. Cierpię na przewlekły ból, fibromialgię i RZS, a co za tym idzie - bezsenność.

3:14AM PDT on Mar 13, 2013

Try vegan melatonin, it replaces lost melatonin and helps you sleep naturally.

3:13AM PDT on Mar 13, 2013

Very useful article, will share. Thanks.

8:26AM PST on Jan 26, 2013

Thank you Megan, for Sharing this!

2:52AM PST on Jan 25, 2011

i can sleep better if the air is cool'''';;; thanks for the article!!!

7:12PM PDT on Sep 10, 2010

Insomnia and I were good friends until I went to med school, and since then, sheer exhaustion helps me sleep quite well! Of course, I still get nights where I can be too tired to sleep (which really sucks)...I've found that reading a few pages of a book in bed really helps me wind down when my brain is going at a million miles an hour :)

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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