It's not just how much sleep you get that matters, but the quality of your sleep. And a new study out this week suggests that up to 70% of us aren't getting good enough sleep. But, with some small tricks and changes to your snoozing habits, you might finally get the kind of restorative rest you deserve.
Getting better sleep starts with building consistent sleep routines, including waking up at the same time every day — even on weekends, sleep specialist and clinical psychologist Dr. Michael Breus told the 3rd Hour of TODAY.
"Your circadian rhythm affects your digestion, your cognition and your sleep," he said. So keeping your sleep consistent helps maintain your overall health in many ways.
The good news is that getting better sleep and getting back to sleep in the middle of the night can be as easy as taking a few deep breaths.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique
This simple breathing trick is one of Breus's favorite sleep tips. "If you wake up in the middle of the night thinking through how to get calm and relaxed, (this is a) very easy thing to do," he said.
First, breathe in for the count of four. Then, hold your breath for a count of seven. Finally, breathe out while counting to eight.
"What this does is it lowers your heart rate in the middle of the night," Breus said. That provides a calming sensation that makes it easier to get back to sleep.
Keep caffeine and alcohol consumption in mind
Avoid drinking caffeine too late in the day, Breus advised. Aim to give yourself six to eight hours between your last bit of caffeine and bedtime. So, if your bedtime is around 10 p.m., have your last cup of coffee or caffeinated tea at 2 p.m., Breus said.
"The other big thing is: Limit alcohol before bed," he said. "Remember, there's a big difference between going to sleep and passing out."
While alcohol can help you fall asleep, it can also interfere with some stages of sleep. So you won't necessarily feel very rested if you use alcohol to help drift off to bed.
Try using an ice pack to stay cool at night
If you want to fall asleep fast, it's crucial to get the right temperature in your bedroom. For most of us, it's easier to sleep in a cooler room. But much of the country is in the middle of a heat wave.
So, Breus suggested using frozen water bottles in bed to cool down. "What I do is I have the bottle in a tube sock that will keep the condensation," he explained. "When you put one on either side of each hip, you will absolutely cool down."