7 Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

By Martin Brown

woman sleepingWe all want to feel good and look great. We all want to be fit, even if we have not been truly fit in a long time. What I find surprising is how many of us look at the complex issues of fitness and nutrition and ignore one very important component:

Getting a good night’s sleep.

Less than six hours of restful sleep and or more than nine hours is problematic for the average adult over the age of twenty-five. Unfortunately in our modern culture, sleep is often seen as a luxury that the truly ambitious cannot afford. I’s a ridiculous notion that, over time, can lead to serious health consequences from a higher incidence of cancer to impairments of mental function.

A 2002 National Sleep Foundation (NSF) study entitled Sleep in America revealed that 74 percent of American adults experience some form of sleep related problem three or more nights per week. Not surprisingly, studies reveal that the average amount of restful sleep per night has steadily declined over the last century. Of course while these sleep patterns have changed our brains and our bodies have not.

The lack of sleep can have serious consequences, as in vehicular accidents, or may simply take a slow toll on your dating and social life. And in the pursuit of fitness, inadequate sleep hurts our body’s recovery time and muscle growth if your goal is, for example, to tone and shape up your arms and legs.

Here are seven things you can do to help assure that all your nights are restful ones:

First, dismiss the notion that seven hours of sleep every night is a luxury you cannot afford. Get a goodnight’s sleep and what you accomplish during the day will yield better results in the long run than the “go-getter” who is trying to conquer the world on a nightly regimen of five hours of rest.

Second, remember that we are designed to sleep in nearly total darkness and awaken to daylight. If your bedroom is not dark, whether that’s a streetlight outside your window, or the lamp your bedmate has left on while he reads, use a sleep mask. Make sure that the mask you purchase is properly fitted to the contours of your face. A cheap mask will produce poor results.

Next, try to avoid having your desk/workplace where you sleep. Sleep is not a gift you give to yourself while you’re not busy at your desk. It’s a nightly retreat for your body and brain. Treat it as such. Work and sleep are not good companions. If you’re someone who simply must note a thought during the night, do it in the least disruptive fashion. I would suggest a small digital memo minder that records your thought at the click of a button. Getting up, turning on the light, and writing down a note to yourself, is far more disruptive and reduces your chances of quickly falling back to sleep.

Fourth, good hydration is important to restful sleep, so drink eight, eight ounce glasses of water every day. But try to resist that water intake after six or seven at night depending on the time you go to bed. The less chance you need to get up to use the bathroom at night, the better, more healthful sleep your body will have.

Fifth, don’t watch TV to fall asleep; rather read a book or magazine. This allows you to nod off in a quieter, less invasive manner.

Sixth, try to awaken without the use of an alarm clock. Ideally sleep should be a natural cycle. Often alarm clocks are a habit that we fall into for workdays. But an alarm clock is also a tool that encourages us to cheat on much needed sleep. Ideally you should be able to go to sleep early enough in darkness that you can awaken normally to the light of day.

Seven, too many of us pick up the habit of irregular sleep patterns as young adults and just perpetuate these habits as we grow older. Denying yourself needed sleep, throwing yourself in the shower well before you body is ready to wake up, followed by two cups of coffee to help stay awake, is a temporary patch for an unhealthy lack of sleep.

In the end our bodies will simply not accept inadequate amounts of rest. Remember if you want to be fit, and safeguard your health, nothing beats a good night’s sleep.


Martin Brown is the Heath Channel Editor for SingleMindedWomen.com, and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Finding Mr. Right. His next book, due out March 2011, is Fit in 50 Days.