We spend approximately one third of our lives asleep, but many of us don’t realise how significant it is to master the activity of sleeping. In fact, for your health, it is just as important to get a good nights sleep as eating well and exercising regularly. When we sleep well, we wake up feeling refreshed and alert for our daily activities, as sleep affects how we look, feel and perform on a daily basis, and can have a major impact on our overall quality of life.
While we sleep we unplug from our busy lives and environment, allowing our body to repair damaged cells and our brain to rest, process information gathered throughout the day and to store this information as memory. Our abilityto function during the day is directly related to the amount of restful sleep we have at night. Try the following 10 tips to help get a good night sleep:
1. Turn your bedroom into a sleep-inducing environment – Keep the temperature comfortably cool – between 18 and 24°C – and the room well ventilated and dark. Having plants in your bedroom is a wonderful way of increasing air flow and creating a feeling of calm and serenity. Also, sleeping in a clean room free of mess and clutter, and with no electronic screens will help to improve the quality of your sleep. You could also lower the volume of outside noise with earplugs if necessary.
2. Include physical activity in your daily routine – Regular exercise can promote better sleep quality, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy a deeper sleep during the night. Timing is important though, as if you exercise close to bedtime, you might be too energised to fall asleep. Try to finish working out at least three hours before you get into bed as the brain becomes very active after exercising which is not ideal when you are about to switch it off.
3. Meditate – Practicing meditation promotes relaxation which is the first step in putting your body to sleep. The mindfulness learned from meditation is the easiest and most effective way to re-train the ready-for-bedtime brain, making a deep, restful night of shuteye part of your standard routine.
4. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine – As any coffee lover knows, caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. Avoid caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, and some pain relievers) for at least six hours before bedtime. Although alcohol may help bring on sleep, after a few hours it acts as a stimulant, increasing the number of awakenings and generally decreasing the quality of sleep later in the night. It is therefore best to limit alcohol consumption to one to two drinks per day, or less, and to avoid drinking within three hours of bedtime. Nicotine is also a stimulant, and the side effects from smoking can cause insomnia and withdrawal symptoms similar to caffeine.
5. Switch off – Nearly all of us are guilty of using some type of electronics, like a television, computer, video game, or phone just before going to bed. The light from these devices stimulates our brain, making it harder to wind down. Put your gadgets away an hour before bedtime to fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly. If possible computers, TVs, mobile phones or any electronic devices should be kept out of the room completely.
6. Make sure your room is dark – Sleeping in a dark room can greatly improve your quality of sleep. Darkness causes the brain to produce the hormone melatonin, which gives us that sleepy feeling. Melatonin is the body’s natural sleep aid, which is only produced once all artificial and natural light is gone and the room is as dark as possible. You should keep all light-emitting screens out of your bedroom, close the blinds, invest in thick, heavy, dark curtains or shades that completely block out natural light or wear an eye mask to create maximum darkness.
7. Stick to a sleep schedule – Try going to bed and getting 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. However don’t stress if you can’t get to sleep at exactly the same time every night. If you don’tfall asleep within about 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing such as meditation or reading, then go back to bed when you’re tired. If you are putting pressure on your self to fall asleep, you might find it even tougher to nod off.
8. Manage stress – When you have too much to do and too much to think about your sleep is likely to suffer. Start with the basics, such as getting organised, setting priorities and keeping a weekly diary or planner. Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one. Share a good laugh with a friend and before bed, jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.
9. Limit daytime naps – Long daytime naps can interfere with night-time sleep especially if you’re struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality at night. If you do nap during the day limit yourself to about 10 to 30 minutes and make it during the mid-afternoon, not too close to bedtime. If you do shift work or work at night, you may need to make an exception to the rules about daytime sleeping. In this case, keep your blinds closed so that sunlight doesn’t interrupt your sleep.
10. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows – You wouldn’t run a marathon or hike a mountain without the right gear. Yet despite spending a great deal of our lives sleeping many of us haven’t adequately prepared in the bedroom when it comes to pillows and mattresses. You can’t put a price on a good nights sleep, and spending a little bit extra on a good quality mattress, pillow and bed linen will make it much more inciting to crawl into bed and drift off into a deep slumber.
Indulging in a good night’s sleep is not a luxury but actuallya necessity to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The one-third of our lives that we spend sleeping plays a direct role in how full, energetic and successful the other two-thirds of our lives can be so by following these tips you will become so good at sleeping you can do it with your eyes closed.
Written by Prue Rustean