Better Sleep on the Cheap

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I’m one of those people who must have eight hours of sleep a night to function the next day – but I consider myself lucky, because I fall asleep pretty easily. Many don’t.

Twenty percent of Americans get fewer than six hours a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Those folks are probably spending a large part of what researchers say the sleep industry rakes in: $23 billion a year.

Some of that money goes to things everybody needs occasionally – like a new quality mattress (every 10 years) and pillows (one or two years).

But a lot goes to sleeping medication, which can be an expensive and ultimately ineffective solution. In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson talks to a sleep expert who explains the problems with taking pills to put yourself out – plus what you can do to get sleep easy by saving money. Check it out, and then read on for more tips.

So what’s more effective and cheaper than sleeping pills? Changing your habits. Here’s how…

  1. Get comfy. Dr. Abreu in the video above emphasized comfort: a room that’s dark, a temperature you like, blankets and pillows that feel nice. The sound of a fan or the A/C helps some people (including me) sleep better too. When you’re uncomfortable in bed, that’s often all you can think about.
  2. Ditch distractions. Dr. Abreu also says to minimize stimuli – things that keep your attention – in the bedroom. No TVs, no computers, no radios, no smartphones – not even books. The idea is to make your bedroom the place where the only thing you do (with perhaps one exception) is sleep. If you want to read or watch TV at night, do it elsewhere. When you get sleepy, go in your room and shut your eyes.
  3. Schedule sleep. The Sleep Foundation says snoozing should be on your to-do list like everything else. If you get into bed thinking about work (instead of how soft and warm those blankets are), you may have trouble. A consistent sleep schedule (including weekends) also helps your body know when to rest.
  4. Create a wind-down routine. Get into the habit of making the hour before bedtime relaxing. Whether it’s a long hot bath, listening to a soothing playlist, or reading a novel with a glass of milk (caffeine or food before bed are bad), do something that transitions you into rest mode.
  5. Use your bed as intended. According to The Sleep Foundation, beds are for only two things: sex and sleep. If you work on the laptop or tablet or do anything else from bed, even during the daytime, your body may become more geared for those other activities instead of sleep.
  6. Get healthy. Incorporating exercise into your daily schedule can help you sleep better – not only are you wearing yourself out in a healthy way, but it helps fight a vicious cycle. Being overweight puts you at higher risk of conditions like sleep apnea, which make it harder to breathe in bed and thus harder to stay asleep. And people who don’t get enough sleep are often too tired and poorly motivated to exercise properly, so the problem perpetuates itself. Smoking also contributes to the problem.
  7. Find professional help. If none of this advice works for you, try visiting a sleep expert. SleepCenters.org can help you find a doctor in your area recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The trip won’t be as cheap as the rest of this advice, but you can’t put a price on quality sleep.

Bottom line? Pills are the most expensive way to get a good night’s rest, and they’re the worst way. Sleep experts can help you save money – and while a mattress stuffed with cash probably won’t help you rest better, their advice will. Got other advice for sleeping well? Please share it on our Facebook page for everybody who’s still counting sheep.

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