The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society recommends that adults should sleep for at least 7 hours per night regularly.  And if you are recovering from illness or are a teenager, you may need up to 9 hours. Why you ask? Well, people who get seven hours of sleep regularly, get sick less often, maintain a healthy body weight, have lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease, deal with stress better, and think more clearly.  There’s even research that they do better in school and at work and get along better with people.

Here are five ways to sleep better 

Daytime bright light exposure can help.

1. Turn on the sunlight

 Good sleep starts when you wake up! Daytime bright light exposure improved sleep quality and duration for people with insomnia. It was reported that sunlight in the morning reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 83 percent. The good news is that only 2 hours of bright light exposure during the day can increase the amount of sleep efficiency and duration.  Taking a walk outside first thing in the morning can boost your mood, improve your overall heart health and even help you sleep better.  

2. Put down your devices

Maybe your smart phone is impairing your sleep. About 80 percent of American adults say they use digital devices for more than two hours per day which can cause eyestrain and your ability to sleep through the night. The cause may be the blue light emitted from these devices. Blue light has a short wavelength that interferes with our production of melatonin which is a natural sleep supplement. If you must use your devices, try wearing glasses that block blue light and find other ways to decrease screen time especially before bed. Experts recommend avoiding watching television before bedtime and to turn off any bright lights two hours before heading to bed. Candle light is a nice night time soothing habit as long as you blow out the candle before bed.

For a sound’s night sleep, avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee up to 6 hours before bedtime, and alcohol before bed.

3. Avoid coffee and alcohol within 4 hours before bedtime

 Guess that makes having a coffee break in the afternoon isn’t a good idea. In one study, consuming caffeine up to 6 hours before bed significantly worsened sleep quality but there has been some research showing that coffee before bed may not be a problem for some people. According to the research, alcohol does allow people to fall asleep quicker because it depresses the central nervous system that may help one fall asleep faster. However, in many research studies, the sleep isn’t deep and in as little as four hours of slumber interruption is common. That means you may be waking up four hours after your last sip.  

Complex carbs with a bit of protein are a good late-night snack options, such as granola with low-sugar yogurt.

4. Avoid late night snacking

There is evidence that you can snack for better sleep and there are foods that can help you sleep better. The best bedtime snacks contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body make serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that aids in the sleep process. Other snack ideas are ones that include complex carbohydrate with some protein and a bit of calcium. Some good snacks before bed are low-fat milk or cheese, tuna, chicken or turkey, a bowl of cereal with skim milk, a peanut butter sandwich or even yogurt with granola sprinkled on top are good choices.  

Melatonin and Magnesium are two natural supplements that might be able to help you sleep.

5. Supplement your sleep

Melatonin has been a natural supplement to increase deep sleep but sometimes takes a few days. Another option is taking 500 mg of Magnesium right before bed. Magnesium helps the body relax. This nutrient reduces stress and helps you sleep longer. Both magnesium and melatonin can be used to treat insomnia, are sometimes used in combination with each other. (Check with your doctor before adding any supplements into your sleep regimen.)  

Bonus tip: exercise before can help you get a better night’s rest.  In people with severe insomnia, exercise offered more benefits than most drugs. Exercise reduced time to fall asleep by 55 percent, total night wakefulness by 30 percent, and anxiety by 15 percent while increasing total sleep time by 18 percent. A good reason to take a walk with the dog before bedtime.  

— Andrea Metcalf 

Andrea Metcalf is a health and wellness expert, best-selling author, certified Personal Trainer and trusted television personality with appearances on the NBC Today Show, Steve Harvey, and She is the co-founder of ONYX Interactive, an at-home Pilates Reformer and Pilates inspired content provider. Her website is  Andrea Her other stories include Increase your energy and live a healthier life and What stretching can do for you.

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