Nothing feels better than a good night's sleep. It makes your waking hours more productive, focused, and happy.
You can think of the actions you take for a good night's sleep as your "sleep hygiene," which is just like brushing your teeth, and must be done consistently. Where and how you sleep, your sleep habits, and even the type of mattress and pillow you use really do matter.
If you struggle with sleep, know that it takes trial and error to find solutions. Here are five things that will make a difference:
1. Your sleep environment. You want your bedroom to be an atmosphere where you step in and your brain subconsciously knows this is where you'll sleep. Many people use their bedroom to study, watch TV, or go online. None of that is good for your sleep hygiene.
"You don't want to associate your bedroom with feeling anxious or thinking about work or school," advises Suleman Iqbal, a sleep disorders specialist with Intermountain Healthcare. "To emphasize relaxation, try redecorating your bedroom, turning down the lights, and keeping it dark and quiet."
2. Your mattress. You want to be physically comfortable no matter what your sleeping environment. When buying a new mattress, find one you can first try out at home. Many online mattress retailers have in-home trials. Another option is at some high-end hotels, you can buy the mattress and bedding you sleep in. In any case, always try the mattress out first. You should know if it suits you within a week or so.
3. Your pillow. Pillows are a personal choice. Whether you like a soft or firm pillow, make sure it's comfortable and not contributing to allergies. Some people want a down or feather pillow, but then they realize they have an allergic reaction. If you have allergies, you won't breathe as easily, and you'll be more likely to snore, breathe through your mouth, and wake up with a dry mouth. Talk to your physician if you think allergies and associated breathing difficulties are disrupting your sleep.
4. Your bedtime routine. One hour prior to bed, start preparing yourself for sleep. Like anything, if you do the prep work, the result will be better.
"Sleep is the same way," said Dr. Iqbal. "Try calming activities that signal to your brain that it's time for bed, such as turning off electronic devices and turning down the lights."
5. Your sleep position. Once you're in bed, sleep apnea is more likely to occur if you sleep on your back, as your tongue tends to fall backward and your breathing can become compromised. Sometimes positional therapy can help. Try to avoid sleeping on your back and try elevating your head with a couple of pillows.
You can contact a sleep medicine specialist at Intermountain Healthcare for more information, or tune in to KUTV on May 14 for Ask The Expert. Intermountain Healthcare caregivers will provide tips and suggestions on getting better sleep. A panel of experts will also answer your phone calls from noon to 5:30 p.m. at 877-908-0680.
You can also submit questions via Facebook and Twitter using #kutvasktheexpert.
For more information visit intermountainhealthcare.org/asktheexpert.