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Birgitte Haaning, who owns Happy Healthy Way, offers up her expertise in a sponsored column. As a holistic practitioner, Haaning works with the whole person “body, mind, spirit, and emotions” to gain balance in life and optimal health. This week, she’ll talk about the importance of sleep and steps you can take to get better sleep.

Feeling crabby lately? Or simply worn out?

The solution might be – get more and better sleep. A good night sleep is a very important factor to your health, which many don’t pay enough attention to.

Think about all the factors which can interfere, with a good night’s sleep — from pressure at work and family responsibilities to unexpected challenges, such as layoffs, relationship – or financial issues or illnesses.

It’s no wonder that quality sleep is sometimes elusive. Lack of sleep can affect your ability to concentrate, increase the risk of obesity, affect your ability to learn and have even been linked to depression (source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute).

Although you might not be able to control all the factors interfering with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep. I recommend these simple sleep tips to my clients, and they seem to benefit big time from them.

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off.

Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night. It might be difficult in the beginning, and if you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, you can try listening to some soft music or read a book. However to read, you need a night-light (red light) as that doesn’t interfere with your Melatonin production (our sleeping hormone)

  1. Pay attention to what you eat and drink

Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Your discomfort might keep you up. Also limit how much you drink before bed to prevent disruptive middle of the night trips to the toilet.

Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.

  1. Create a bedtime ritual

Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music — preferably with the lights dimmed.

Relaxing activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness. Also the above mentioned melatonin production start to increase about two hours before you go to sleep

  1. Get comfortable

Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Use room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs. Your mattress and pillow can contribute to better sleep, too. Since the features of good bedding are subjective, choose what feels most comfortable to you.

If you share your bed, make sure there’s enough room for two. If you have children or pets, try to set limits on how often they sleep with you — or insist on separate sleeping quarters.

Also avoid using the TV or other electronic devices as part of your bedtime ritual. Some research suggests that screen time or other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep. In fact, all the small light bulbs from these devices, including smoke detector etc. should be covered, as they can interfere with our Melatonin production.

  1. Limit daytime naps

Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep — especially if you’re struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality at night.

If you choose to nap during the day, limit yourself to about 10 to 30 minutes and make it during the mid afternoon. If you work nights, you’ll need to make an exception to the rules about daytime sleeping. In this case, keep your window coverings closed so that sunlight (which adjusts your internal clock) doesn’t interrupt your daytime sleep.

  1. Include physical activity in your daily routine

Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep. Timing is important, though. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you might be too energized to fall asleep. If this seems to be an issue for you, exercise earlier in the day.

  1. Manage stress

When you have too much to do, and too much to think about, your sleep is likely to suffer.

To help restore peace, consider healthy ways to manage stress. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one. Share a good laugh with an old friend.

Before bedtime, jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.


Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.