It’s a well-known fact that sleeping well has a significant effect on both your mental and physical health, as well as impacting your quality of life. Research has shown that poor sleep has an adverse effect on your hormones, brain function, and exercise performance. It can also lead to weight gain and an increased risk of disease. Unfortunately, we all seem to live life at such a fast pace that a good night’s sleep often alludes us. Do you find yourself tossing and turning at night, struggling to get the required amount of sleep? You’ll be pleased to learn you can do something about it! Making a few simple changes to your daytime and bedtime habits can have a significant effect and will help you sleep better. (Image Credit: Bruce Mars)
- Keep in Sync with Your Natural Sleep-Wake Cycle
One of the best strategies for improving your sleep is to be more in tune with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, also called the circadian rhythm. It is what determines when you fall asleep and wake up. If you keep to a regular schedule, you’ll feel more relaxed, refreshed and energized. Ideally, you need to be going to sleep and getting up at the same time, even at the weekends when you’d really like to enjoy a lie-in.
There is a way to identify whether you’re getting enough sleep. You should wake up naturally without the need for an alarm. Napping is an excellent way to make up for lost rest but limit them to the early afternoon and make your naps no more than 20 minutes. If you find yourself feeling sleepy after dinner, it’s time to get off the couch and do something stimulating. Give in to the drowsiness, and you’ll find yourself waking up in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.
- Manage Your Exposure to Light
The hormone that helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle is called melatonin. It’s naturally occurring and is controlled by exposure to light. When it’s dark, your brain produces more and makes you feel sleepy. Less is produced when it’s light, and therefore you feel more alert. However, it’s possible to influence your exposure to light in several ways.
As soon as you get up in the morning, it’s time to throw open the curtains and expose yourself to bright sunlight. Enjoy your morning coffee or breakfast outside, or by a sunny window. Take your work breaks outside in the sunshine rather than sat at your desk. During the day, have the curtains or blinds open so that more light can come in and position your desk near a window.
When it’s getting near to your bedtime avoid bright screens, such as those on your TV, phone, tablet, or computer. The blue light emitted by them will disrupt your cycle. Try using heavy curtains or shades that block the light or experiment with a sleep mask. If you need to get up in the night, you should use a dim nightlight or a small flashlight rather than turning on the main light.
- Make Your Bedroom a Calm and Relaxing Space
A bedtime routine that is relaxing and a comfortable bed will send signals to your brain, preparing you for going to sleep. Even the minutest change can have an impact on your quality of sleep. Your bedroom should be cool, dark, and quiet. Wear earplugs if you can’t avoid the noise from neighbors, traffic, or other people in the house. Keep your bedroom cool, with good air flow. Around 65°F or 18°C is the optimum temperature. Make sure your bed is comfortable, and it should be easy for you to turn without getting tangled. Treat yourself to luxurious bedding and pillows, such as down pillows from Down & Feather Co., to create the perfect sleeping space.
- Exercise More
Exercising regularly will help you sleep better at night. It also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea and increases the length of time you spend in deep sleep. The more energetic the exercise, the more powerful the sleep benefits. Don’t expect an instant result as it can take several months of regular exercise before you feel any benefits.
The best time to exercise is in the morning or the afternoon. Intense exercise too close to bedtime will interfere with your sleep. This is because exercise speeds up your metabolism, raises your body temperature and stimulates the production of hormones such as cortisol. Aim to finish moderate to vigorous workouts at least three hours before bedtime.
Low-impact exercise, such as swimming and gentle stretching can actually promote sleep.
- Eat Healthy Food
How well you sleep at night can be affected by what you eat and drink during the day. Restrict things such as caffeine and nicotine because both are stimulants. Avoid big meals late at night and cut out the alcoholic nightcap. Drinking lots of fluids will result in several bathroom trips throughout the night, so limit your intake in the early evening. Cut back on sugary foods and refined carbs, such as white bread, white rice, and pasta.
If you feel the need for a snack late at night, try a small turkey sandwich, a small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal, milk, yogurt or a banana.
- Relax and Clear Your Mind
Stress, worry, and anger often make it difficult to sleep well. If you find yourself lying awake at night worrying about money, relationships, work, for example, there are steps you can take to learn how to stop worrying. It could be that you need to consider seeking help with stress management.
To help you drift off to sleep, you could try practicing various relaxation techniques. Try deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualize yourself lying on the beach listening to the wave crashing on the shore. For many people, these are great ways to wind down, clear the mind and relax.
If you find yourself waking during the night, don’t be worried, it’s perfectly normal! However, it becomes a problem when you can’t fall back to sleep. Don’t stress over not being able to fall asleep again. If you’ve been awake for more than 15 minutes, get out of bed and find something quiet and non-stimulating to do, such as reading a book.