6 Solid Tricks to Help You Get the Sleep You Need

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Sometimes getting a good night's sleep is like staying away from the birthday cake in the conference room: Easier said than done. You know that sleep makes you feel better, but did you know it also has a host of other benefits? Getting a solid eight hours of sleep is integral to living longer; improving your memory, attention span and creativity; cutting down on inflammation; performing better, both at work and at play; helping you maintain a healthy weight; and lowering instances of stress and depression.   
"Getting seven to nine hours of solid, deep sleep each night on a regular basis is just one of the many keys to good health and vitality,” says leading sleep expert, Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, a board-certified internist and nationally known expert in the fields of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, sleep and pain. 
There are many ways to set yourself up for sleep success. If you've worked out a routine for yourself in the past that has stopped working or you and sleep have just fallen out of favor, try one, all or a combination of these tips to get some quality shut-eye tonight. 

1. Exercise. In a study of more than 2,600 men and women, ages 18 to 85, those who exercised for 150 minutes every week at a moderate to heavy level showed a 65 percent improvement in their quality of sleep when compared to those who didn't get as much exercise.
Sneaking in that 20 minutes—or more—of exercise a day isn't as difficult as you might think. You can split up your activities throughout the day, workout in the morning, at lunch, after work or a number of other fun ways.
2. Make your bed. A survey of U.S. adults found that those that made their bed every day or almost every day were 19 percent more likely to report getting a solid night's sleep most days.
Not only did a well-made bed help induce slumber, but the survey participants also reported that having a comfortable mattress and pillows also affected their sleep ratings. If you're uncomfortable in your bed—make some changes. Get new sheets, a new mattress or new pillows and soon you'll be off to dreamland.
3. Paint your walls. While red might be your favorite color, it might not be inductive to a good night's sleep. Paint your walls a tranquil color—one that is calming to you and makes you feel relaxed. When painting your walls, choose a matte finish over a high-gloss one to tone your room color down even more.
4. Avoid alcohol. While it seems counterintuitive as a couple of drinks might make you want to close your eyes and coast off to sleeping bliss, using alcohol as a sleep aid doesn't work long-term.
Although too many drinks can put you out quickly, the kind of sleep you will get isn't restful. Your dream cycles will be disrupted and you'll wake more often once all the alcohol has been metabolized, if you don't wake up sooner from snoring, sweating, nightmares, nausea or hitting the bathroom more frequently.
If you require a sleep aid, try melatonin or see a doctor to see if any other medication is right for you.   
5. Put down the coffee. Four to six hours before bed anyway. The same goes for caffeinated tea, other caffeinated beverages, chocolate and some over-the-counter medications. Not only is caffeine a stimulant, but it can build up throughout the day and stay in your system for up to 12 hours, so even one innocent cup after dinner could be enough to keep you pacing the floors instead of counting sheep.
6. Leave technology at the door. Or take that a step further and leave everything off for up to two hours before bedtime to let your body's natural melatonin production work its course.
"Avoid bringing technology into the bedroom. The blue light emitted from our TVs, computers tablets and smartphones inhibits the production of melatonin, which we need to fall asleep and stay asleep," says Dr. Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute.
What other tips and tricks have you used to get a good night's sleep?