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Six Great Ways to Improve the Quality of Your Sleep

The saying, "I slept like a baby" has always perplexed me. Babies aren't known for being great sleepers. Admit it, some are downright impossible. But when they finally get to sleep, they seem to sleep deeply (like a baby?). And they are so fun and peaceful to watch when they do sleep- am I right?

However, we all deal with a lack of sleep once in a while. And more frequently for many of us. We toss and turn, kick the blankets, squirm for the perfect position or the right temperature. Some reasons for lack of sleep are varied: insomnia sufferers; new parents where sleep is non-existent but so necessary; those working long shifts and/or have stressful jobs; or they work the nightshift and have to adjust their sleep to daytime. All of these scenarios can wreak havoc on our health and wellbeing.

As humans, we are designed to require at least seven hours of restorative sleep each night. This allows our body to repair itself, to process the day's happenings, and to refresh us for the demands of the next day. Following are six tips to help you get a good quality night's sleep.

1. Control the light

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure, and it helps to regulate you. Expose yourself to sunlight during the day and let in as much natural light into your home or workspace as possible. Avoid bright screens within one or two hours before your bedtime. When it's time to sleep make sure the room is dark by using heavy curtains or light-blocking blinds.

2. Sync natural sleep cycle

Discipline, discipline, discipline -- go to sleep at the same time every night and get up the at the same time every morning. It helps to set your internal clock. To be consistent, try to stick to those same wake up/go-to-bed times on weekends as well. Waking up naturally without an alarm is best if you are getting enough sleep. After dinner, avoid the temptation to crawl into bed too soon. Instead, do low-impact activities that keep you moving to avoid sleepiness.

3. Get exercise

Of course, it's always a good idea to get moving. However, heavy exercise speeds up your metabolism and stimulates hormones such as cortisol. Instead, opt for low-impact exercises, meditation or yoga closer to bedtime that can help you to sleep.

4. Monitor what you consume

What you drink or eat during the day can affect how you sleep at night. Too much caffeine, nicotine or fatty foods can cause sleep problems up to 12 hours after consumption. Try to eat a lighter dinner in the evening. Also, avoid sugary foods before bed -- refined carbohydrates can trigger wakefulness at night.

5. Create a slowing-down ritual

Create a nighttime ritual to help you wind down after a hectic day. Focus on things you do consistently each evening before you retire to bed. Write in a journal, make a to-do list for the next day. Transfer your thoughts to paper so it's not keeping space in your mind. Pre-bed reading or looking at beautiful images in magazines can be relaxing. Light a candle or diffuse some essential oils and just meditate. And/or do some low-impact stretching.

6. Improve the environment

Your bedroom is your sanctuary. Put away clothing that is lying about and eliminate visual clutter that can cause stress and distract you. Be sure your bed is comfortable and supportive. Dress your bed in good quality textiles that are soft and breathable. Use a silk pillowcase to keep wrinkles at bay and allow moisturizers to absorb. Your bedroom should have good ventilation and your room temperature should be cool at approximately 65 degrees.

Sleep has many benefits, it helps with our mood, focus, and concentration, and memory; helps us to maintain weight; keeps our immune system strong; improves our emotional response and mental health; helps with lowering our stress and anxiety, among many other things. If we do not get enough sleep it can have an overall negative impact on all other parts of our lives.

Getting a good night's sleep can be difficult at times. While making some of the changes above, also consider keeping a sleep journal to see how each change has affected your sleep experience over time. By implementing those changes and adjusting your routines, I hope you do begin to "sleep like a baby"....