Today I want to address a problem which is definitely an issue for many people in their day-to-day life (including mine!). Sleep. Sleep is essential for life; it allows our bodies to recuperate, it gives us the energy for the next day, and it gives our brains time to process all of the information we absorb each day. Plus we tend to feel a bit under the weather and start getting snappy when we haven’t had enough. Most sources suggest that not getting enough sleep for a prolonged period of time can be detrimental to health – it can leave you with extra stress, lack of energy and even weight gain. But getting enough sleep, and satisfying sleep at that, is easier said than done.
We all want to get enough sleep and to wake up feeling well-rested and ready to face the new day. It’s just a question of how you manage to get the number of hours you need, especially when in the modern world there are many distractions which can cause either a poor quality of sleep or even a complete lack of it.
So how do we improve the quality of our sleep?
Well I’m no scientist but I have found that these small tips can have a big impact on sleep, and it is, as with many things, a matter of forming good habits.
First things first – your evening routine. Does this sound a bit childish, reminiscent of when your parents used to put you to be? Maybe, but it genuinely does matter and I think it is the most important factor in getting good sleep!
- Try to go to bed (and wake up) at roughly the same time every day. Yes you might have to give up those three hour weekend lie-ins and those 3am Friday nights but it will make a difference your sleep for the rest of the week. That isn’t to say that you need to wake up at the same time on a Saturday morning as you’d wake up to go to work (you can have an extra hour in bed), but you can’t wake up hours later or you’ll throw your body clock off sync. Keeping your sleeping times regular means your body will get used to going to sleep at a certain time and you’ll find it much easier to fall asleep.
- What you do before bed matters, when trying to fall asleep you want to do something that calms your body and mind, not something over stimulating for your brain. For the last half hour or hour before you go to sleep, try relaxing yourself. Turn off your computer and your TV, put your phone on silent and run yourself a warm bath, curl up with a good book, anything calming – just take some time to unwind.
As well as your evening routine there are other areas of your life which have an impact on your quality of sleep. One thing to consider is how active your lifestyle is, particularly if you have an office job or work at home. If you find that you are mostly inactive and you struggle to sleep, it could be that you don’t use enough of your energy during the day. Regular cardio exercise can make a real difference to all of your life, including your quality of sleep.
Another aspect of lifestyle is a fairly obvious one but you’d be surprised how many people make these mistakes and then complain about not being to fall asleep at night. The drinks you consume on a day-to-day basis could be affecting your nights. First, gage how your body copes with caffeine, some people can handle drinking coffee till mid-afternoon, some people can’t even cope with tea after the first cup in the morning. Then second, we have alcohol. Lots of people believe that alcohol helps you sleep, in actual fact, although you may fall asleep faster, you won’t find the sleep refreshing. Try not to have more than one or two drinks a not, even better would be to not drink at all a couple of nights a week!
Obviously some people have real problems with sleep and if you fear you have a sleep disorder then you definitely should go see a doctor about it. However, for the majority of people, just a few changes to daily routines can make a real difference.
Originally posted September 26, 2012