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15 Effective Ways to Improve Your Sleep Right Now

15 Effective Ways to Improve Your Sleep Right Now

Sleep is one of the most discussed topics of the morning–every morning. Phrases like, “I tossed and turned all night, “I just couldn’t shut down my brain and get to sleep,” or “I woke up at three and couldn’t get back to sleep” are the complaints of millions every day. Somewhere between infancy and adulthood, we lose the ability to get a long restful sleep.

Sleep is elusive, and continued lack of sleep makes you irritable, angry, and prone to rants and rages. There are, however, a few things that you can do during the day to ward off the inability to move into a more restful pattern as you approach the time for sleep. Take a look at these effective strategies on how you can improve your sleep–all based upon research–because incorporating them into your daily routine may solve your problems!

1. Control your caloric intake

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that, in general, the higher a person’s caloric intake, the more likely that person experienced sleep problems. The same study pointed to indicators that intake of healthier fats tended to have a positive impact on sleep.

2. Avoid unhealthy fats

A University of Minnesota study looked at the relationship between “unhealthy” fat intake and sleep. The conclusions were this: unhealthy animal fats reduce the levels of orexin–a brain chemical that regulates sleep habits. Lower levels of orexin result in restless and difficult sleep at night, but also promote unwanted sleep needs during daytime hours. Just leave your favorite pizza snacks for lunch if you want to fall asleep faster.

3. Consume healthy fats instead

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    Healthier food choices seem to be the mantra of every health and fitness expert, author, and all sorts of TV personalities. Forget the hype, and believe in actual research studies that relate to diet and sleep.

    Studies at the Harvard School of Medicine have demonstrated that healthy fats (Omega-3’s, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated oils) improve sleep quality because the change from unhealthy to healthy fats reduces belly fat. Too much belly fat tends to obstruct airways during sleep, and the result is sleep interruptions throughout the night. Healthy fats, such as those contained in vegetable and nut oils or fatty fish (salmon, tuna, and sardines), reduce belly fat and promote better sleep.

    4. Eat more thiamine and magnesium

    Additional studies indicate that thiamine (vitamin B1) and magnesium deficiencies correlate with sleep disorders. A thiamine deficiency causes magnesium deficiency, and therein lays the problem. A University of Maryland Medical Center study recently published its findings on the effects of low magnesium levels in the body, and one of the predominate negative consequences was sleep disorders. Most of us do not get enough magnesium in our diets (good sources are whole grains, nuts and green leafy veggies), so if your diet lacks these, a magnesium and a B1 supplement might be warranted, if you want to reduce sleep issues.

    5. Solve your snoring problems

    Snoring does not just affect your partner. It disrupts your sleep as well. A large number of snorers claim that they even wake themselves up with their own snoring. Simple solutions might involve elevating your head or using breathing strips that are sold over the counter. If snoring continues to be an issue, however, getting a sleeping device may be in order.

    6. Do not toss and turn

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      This situation is usually caused by a lack of comfort. Solutions may include changing out the fiber fill type of your pillows, buying a new mattress, or changing the room temperature. If you continue to toss and turn, however, it is best to just get up and do one of the following: read, listen to quiet music, or try some relaxation techniques.

      7. Get at least 30 minutes of sunlight during the day

      Why? Because this increases your serotonin levels and serotonin produces more melatonin, which is a sleep enhancement. Many psychiatrists now prescribe melatonin supplements for patients with ADD and ADHD, because studies have all shown that it promotes restful sleep. If you cannot get at least 30 minutes of direct sunlight each day, take a melatonin supplement a couple hours before you go to bed.

      8. Exercise

      A University of Oregon Medical School study came to clear conclusions about the relationship between exercise and restful sleep, and it did not seem to matter if those minutes were done in long or short intervals. Thus, someone who took a 30-minute brisk walk fewer times in a week versus someone who took 15-minute brisk walks more times in a week did not make a difference. Both reported better sleep.

      It is important to note that if you pick up the pace of walking that you do on a daily basis, at work, at home, or with your dog, you will see those exercise minutes add up. And housecleaning chores count as well, as long as they are done “briskly.”

      9. Get rid of the blue screen

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        Love reading from your iPad in bed and responding to a few late emails? That may be one of the major reasons why you have troubles sleeping. The blue light from your device’s screen has a shorter wave length and reduces melatonin levels in our bodies, thus making it harder to relax and fall asleep.

        Try installing f.lux–a simple software that makes your device’s display change, based upon the time of day or night, and will reduce the blue light as you move into night-time hours. As it is automatic, you don’t have to remember to activate anything! Another option is to get amber-lensed glasses, which block blue light emissions.

        10. Embrace candlelit dinners

        Evenings should be your prime time for relaxing. Ditch the artificial lights in favor of candles. Not only will it make your dinner insanely romantic, but will let you unwind faster as the candles emit no blue light and watching the tiny flames puts you in a zen-like relaxed state.

        11. Adopt a ritual of bedtime preparation

        It will contribute to good sleep. The ritual gives signals to your body that it is time for rest, and your body and brain will respond better to the transition from activity to rest. Perhaps you watch the news, turn off the TV, take your dog for a short walk, get into your jammies, immerse your face in cold water for 30 seconds (yes, this does help!), brush your teeth, and climb into bed with a book. The routine sends signals to your brain which in turn sends signals to your body that it is time for rest.

        12. Sniff some lavender

        Research conducted at the University of Southampton in England and at Wesleyan University in Connecticut showed that adults who had the scent from lavender oil present as they slept experienced better, more restful sleep. These researchers found that the scent increases “slow-wave” sleep–the deep sleep that slows heart rate and relaxes muscles. Place several drops on a tissue and place it next to your pillow when you retire.

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        13. Write down all your woes and thoughts

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          All of the stressors and unresolved problems of the day creep into the silence of nighttime, and steal needed rest. If you have a “Type A” personality, your days are filled with frenetic activity. If that activity translates into further frenetic brain activity at night, you are in trouble.

          One really effective method of dealing with this is to keep a notepad next to the bed. Sit up and write down the issues that are nagging at you; note possible solutions or things that you will do tomorrow to resolve these issues. Once they are on paper, they tend to be removed from your thoughts and you can sleep better.

          14. Enjoy the white noise

          A lot of people find that a sound machine with rain, oceans waves, etc., will induce the calm that is needed for sleep. Having trouble finding what sounds are your sweet spot for calming down? There’s an app called Relax Melodies that will let you browse through a huge gallery of pleasant sounds and help you mix your own tunes!

          15. Try the cold therapy

          If a full emersion into a cool bath (like 60 degrees cool)–which is considered the most effective long-term strategies for improving sleep and weight loss–doesn’t appeal to you, start with sitting with ice packs on the front and back of your neck for about 30 minutes in the evening.

          Alternatively, you can make a series of dips with your face into a bowl of cold water (50 degrees) and hold it there for as long as you can (up to 30 seconds is more than fine!). This procedure will not only improve your sleeping patterns, but also reduce stress as your body slows its metabolism in order to spare vital organs. In turn, it reduces tension and you stop worrying about all the things that bother you and your mind clears out.

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          Elena Prokopets

          Freelance Writer

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          Published on November 14, 2018

          Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

          Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

          With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

          For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

          In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

          Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

          Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

          It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

          For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

          Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

          Symptoms of Fatigue

          Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

          • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
          • mental blocks
          • lack of motivation
          • headache
          • dizziness
          • muscle weakness
          • slowed reflexes and responses
          • impaired decision-making and judgement
          • moodiness, such as irritability
          • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
          • reduced immune system function
          • blurry vision
          • short-term memory problems
          • poor concentration
          • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

          Causes of Fatigue

          The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

          • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
          • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
          • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
          • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

          Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

          Medical Causes of Fatigue

          If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

          Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

          Anemia

          Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

          Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

          There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

          Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

          Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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          This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

          Diabetes

          Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

          Sleep Apnea

          Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

          Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

          Thyroid disease

          An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

          Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

          • Lack of sleep
          • Too much sleep 
          • Alcohol and drugs 
          • Sleep disturbances 
          • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
          • Poor diet 

          Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

          • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
          • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
          • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
          • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

          Psychological Causes of Fatigue

          Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

          • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
          • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
          • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

          How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

          Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

          1. Tell The Truth

          Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

          To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

          Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

          The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

          One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

          • How you feel
          • What time of day it is
          • What may have contributed to your fatigue
          • How your mind and body reacts

          This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

          2. Reduce Your Commitments

          When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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          If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

          When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

          Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

          3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

          If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

          Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

          If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

          Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

          Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

          4. Express More Gratitude

          Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

          It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

          Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

          5. Focus On Yourself

          Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

          There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

          But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

          We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

          6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

          Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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          Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

          The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

          Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

          7. Take a Power Nap

          When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

          Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

          This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

          8. Take More Exercise

          The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

          Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

          The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

          You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

          9. Get More Quality Sleep

          To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

          Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

          My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

          10. Improve Your Diet

          Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

          Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

          On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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          To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

          Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

          Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

          11. Manage Your Stress Levels

          Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

          When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

          Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

          My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

          12. Get Hydrated

          Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

          Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

          If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

          The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

          The Bottom Line

          These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

          If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

          Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
          [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
          [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
          [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
          [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
          [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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