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Do you wake up in the middle of the night, fall asleep with the TV on, or lay in bed for hours before dozing off? You’re not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, at least 40 million Americans each year suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, with an additional 20 million experiencing occasional sleeping problems, accounting for an estimated $16 billion in medical costs each year.

Given our fast-paced, digital lifestyle, it makes sense why we’re so burned out as a culture. But as our lifestyle caused us to loose more and more sleep, it’s affecting our public health. Many studies show that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk for a host of diseases and health complications.

Adults need between 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night. If you’ve been sleeping poorly, many environmental factors or lifestyle habits may be to blame. Here are 6 ways to get a good night’s sleep.

1. Exercise the right way

Exercising 20-30 minutes per day can help you sleep better and more consistently. According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should exercise regularly, but do so at least three hours before your bedtime so you don’t remain awake when you want to sleep.

2. Avoid bright screens and lights close to bedtime

Melatonin, which is released by the pineal gland, is what makes us sleepy at night time. According to the National Institutes of Health, the pineal gland “responds to light-induced signals by switching off production of the hormone melatonin. The body’s level of melatonin normally increases after darkness falls, making people feel drowsy.” Help your  body secrete melatonin by avoiding bright screens close to bedtime. By powering down your laptop and phone an hour before bedtime, you’ll help your body wind down for sleep.

3. Follow a night routine to calm down

Following a nighttime routine will help relax and tire you. Meditating, breathing, or taking a warm bath are all good ways to wind down.

4. Go to sleep at the same time every night

By going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning, you’ll help your body get on a schedule and set your “internal clock.” Unfortunately, according to the National Institutes of Health, “sleeping in on weekends also makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it re-sets your sleep cycles for a later awakening.”

5. Don’t drink coffee after lunchtime

Caffeine is a stimulant that keeps you awake. The effects of caffeine can take as long as 12 hours to wear off, so that afternoon latte pick-me-up may not be a wise choice. Try to limit your caffeine intake to one cup, if any, in the morning only.

6. Eat a small snack post-dinner

Going to bed on an empty stomach is never a good idea. Experts at the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School suggest to finish dinner several hours before going to sleep, to stay away from foods that cause indigestion, and limit eating close to bedtime to a small snack only. A couple hundred calories will do the trick. The snack will ensure that you don’t wake up hungry yet wont be awake all night from the calories.

Image Source: Billfromesm/Flickr

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