Catch Your Zzzs for Free

Three out of five Americans have trouble sleeping. In the search for a cure, we spend up to $24 billion a year on products such as sleeping pills, pricey pillows, expensive mattresses, white noise machines, aroma therapy potions, and more.

Fortunately, the following recommendations can improve your sleep without costing you a dime!

  • sleepingAvoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine can affect some people up to 10 hours after they consume it.
  • Don’t smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant that can disrupt your sleep.
  • Stay away from alcohol within a few hours of bedtime. Alcoholic beverages can make you fall asleep faster, but they reduce the quality of your sleep and can make you wake up during the night.
  • Exercise regularly, but not within three hours of bedtime. Working out after that could keep you from falling asleep.
  • Don’t nap during the day.
  • Stick to a relaxing bedtime routine. This tells your brain it’s time to go to sleep. Try to begin winding down two hours before bedtime. Stop all work, texts and calls. Reading or listening to music for an hour before you go to bed can also help you wind down.
  • Make your bedroom dark, quiet and cool.
  • Don’t eat a large meal within two hours of bedtime. If you need a snack before bed, reach for something light, such as a bowl of whole-grain cereal with milk, a banana or a peanut butter sandwich.

When to Get Help
See your doctor if your sleep problems continue to bother you or if you:

  • Think you get enough sleep, but feel tired during the day.
  • Fall asleep during meals or conversations.
  • Thrash around and hurt yourself or your sleeping partner as you physically act out dreams.
  • Start a new medication and find it affects your sleep.
  • Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

And remember, sufficient sleep is not a luxury — it is a necessity. Lack of sleep can affect your immune system and can also affect how fast you recover if you get sick. Long-term lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.

This month, join the conversation on sleep on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas Facebook and Twitter pages.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Sleep Foundation, Mayo Clinic

About Holly Carter

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