Many of us do not give sleep much thought. We go to bed at night, wake up, and repeat the cycle. However, sleep is so crucial for our mental and physical health. When we do not get better sleep, numerous aspects of our health are affected.
When we’re sleep-deprived, we do not learn effectively, our metabolism suffers, we increase the risk of accidents occurring during the day, our mood worsens, cardiovascular health diminishes, and our immune system is altered.
Many people do not get better sleep each night. We live hectic lives, staying up all hours of the night. We’re distracted with our mobile phones, suffer from sleep disorders, and lay awake worrying about the events of that day. So, how do you get more sleep? Although how much you sleep is crucial, the quality of sleep is also important.
The following tips will not only help get better sleep but improve cognitive function and overall health. When you get enough sleep, you will feel the difference.
1. Stick to a Schedule
It’s important to have a regular sleep routine, so your biological clock remains steady. Being consistent is very important. This is why you should train your body to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Set a bedtime that makes sense. When do you normally feel tired? You do not want to be tossing and turning to fall asleep.
The same is true for waking up. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should be able to wake up naturally. However, many of us rely on our alarm clocks. You should also be careful regarding naps. If you have trouble sleeping, naps during the day can actually worsen this. If you do nap, keep it short. You only need around 30 minutes.
2. Be Conscious of Your Diet
In terms of your schedule, do not eat or drink too much before bed. You should allow your food to digest before attempting to sleep. If you drink too much fluid before bed, you’re more likely to get up frequently to use the washroom. You want uninterrupted sleep.
Drinking too much caffeine will create issues when attempting to fall asleep. Caffeine is a stimulant with a fairly long half-life. Meaning, a coffee that you drink at 4 PM, can potentially affect you trying to fall asleep at 10 PM.
3. Make Your Sleeping Space Comfortable
In order to sleep well, you need to be relaxed and comfortable. Invest in a good pillow, as this will provide proper neck support. You should also create a space that is dark and cool. If there are two of you in bed, you need to have enough space. It’s obviously not ideal for two people to be sharing a twin-sized mattress.
If you benefit from sound while trying to fall asleep, invest in a fan. Many people leave their TV on to drown out any sound in the night. However, the light from your TV can trick your body into thinking it’s not time to sleep. Melatonin is produced and released when it’s dark. Signals are sent from the optic nerve to the brain, creating the feeling of sleepiness. When light hits your eyes, this process is inhibited.
4. Learn to Manage Stress Levels
Going to bed feeling highly stressed is not beneficial for your mind. You need to properly unwind and manage stress levels in order to relax. If you’re stressed, start incorporating stress management into your everyday life. Prioritize tasks so that you are not constantly over-thinking.
Think about the areas in your life that are causing you stress. Now, how can you resolve this stress? Are you stressed about an upcoming project for work? If so, break your project up into smaller goals. That way, you will not be so overwhelmed. If you’re stressed about your relationship, then focus on ways to resolve any ongoing issues. Don’t be afraid to take a break if you need one. Life is hectic, so take some time for yourself once in a while. Read a book, connect with nature or any other relaxing activity.
The key is to let go at night. You will not be able to fall asleep if you have a million thoughts rushing through your mind. Think about the topics you’re stressed about. While you’re laying in bed, realize that there’s only one thing that needs to be done there and then; get better sleep. If you need to, write down your thoughts before bed. That way, you can deal with them the next day.
Regular exercise is important for your health and sleeping patterns. When our body temperature decreases, it triggers the body to sleep. If you exercise each day for 30 minutes, you will raise the temperature of your body.
30 minutes of aerobic exercise can raise your body temperature for up to five hours. This is why you should not exercise directly before bed. Once this temperature dips, you’re able to sleep better. Exercising five to six hours before bedtime will yield the best results.
6. Start a Sleep Diary
An asleep diary is great for tracking your sleeping patterns and what factors may be affecting your sleep. For two to three weeks, write down everything sleep-related. What time did you go to bed? How long did it take you to sleep? Did you get up in the middle of the night? Did you have anything to eat close to your bedtime? A sleep diary can help you understand where problems lie. That way, you can address your concerns.
7. Eliminate Cigarettes
Just like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant. Therefore, it prevents you from falling asleep. Anyone that is a smoker knows how it feels to withdrawal from nicotine. These withdrawal moments can disrupt your sleep.
A study found that smokers are actually four times more likely to not feel as well-rested, in comparison to nonsmokers. Also, smoking increases issues related to breathing disorders (i.e. sleep apnea). Although quitting may keep you up the first few nights, that will pass. Your health will improve, as well as your ability to sleep.
8. Be Conscious of Your Bedtime Snacks
We’re all guilty of snacking at night from time to time. As mentioned, you should not eat anything too heavy before bed. The best snacks will involve a carbohydrate with calcium or protein, as they contain tryptophan. This amino acid helps produce serotonin, which allows you to relax. When you feel calm, you’re able to fall asleep easier. Some great options are fruit and Greek yogurt, whole-grain toast with a slice of turkey, or a banana with peanut butter.
You should also be conscious of your alcohol intake before bed. Once alcohol levels begin to drop off in the blood, your body wakes up. Since it takes approximately an hour to metabolize a drink (everyone differs, based on several factors), you should not be drinking 2 or 3 drinks before bed.
Making slight changes will yield get better sleep. Once you’re sleeping better, you’ll notice a difference in the way you feel. Your mind and body need to recharge, so focus on improving the amount you sleep, as well as the quality of sleep.
Also read: 5 Steps to Handling Jet Lag