Not getting enough sleep is a killer. It sucks the life out of you. It leaves you grumpy and incapable of performing at your best. You lose your creative edge. You have no energy.
The occasional bad night?s sleep is to be expected. Perhaps you are out late at an event.?? Maybe you are nervous about an upcoming presentation or meeting. You could be pulling an all-nighter with a sick child. If you find yourself tossing and turning night after night, however, you might want to re-look what might be going on.
Here is a more radical take on the situation. Sleep deprivation is becoming a global epidemic. We are getting less sleep than we need and it is having an impact on our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.?? So if you thought you don?t need these tips, maybe it is time for a re-think?
Poor sleep is often the result of bad habits. ?We think we can do with less sleep. To sleep a third of every day seems inefficient. We take sleep for granted and do not think about what it takes to have a good nights sleep. When we notice we are finding it more and more difficult to fall asleep, or stay asleep, it is time to take action.
Before you reach for medication, there are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep.?? There are practices you can implement, habits you can establish, and routines you can set up that could get you back into a healthy sleeping pattern. The term for these practices is ?sleep hygiene?.
Here are 8 top sleep hygiene tips that could get you sleeping:
- Early to bed. Early to rise.
Ask the mother of a small child: how important is a regular sleep schedule? Mothers know exactly how challenging it can be to take care of a tired child. Children thrive on routine and a regular sleep schedule is key. Without it they are cranky, fussy, and sometimes impossible.
Why do we forget that us adults have natural sleep cycles too? Honouring this sleep-wake cycle can help us get an optimal night?s sleep. This means go to sleep at the same time every night. Choose a reasonable time, when you are beginning to tire. If it is too early you will be tossing and turning, getting increasingly frustrated.
Get up at the same time every morning. Even on the weekend. If you have a late night, you should still rise at your usual time. Keep your natural circadian rhythm constant and you should find the quality of your sleep improves.
- You?ve got to move it, move it!
Regular exercise will help you sleep. ?Make exercise a habit. Something you do at regular intervals, and something that you enjoy. It should not be a chore. If you have to bribe yourself or strike a bargain every time you need to ?WORKOUT? (in capital letters) it is not the right activity for you. ?Your body loves to move. Find something that you love to do too.
The best time to exercise will depend on you. For some, strenuous activity before bedtime is too energising and will inhibit sleep. Gentle stretching before bedtime may be more appropriate.
Your exercise should also not be at the expense of your sleep.?? It does not help if you cut your sleep to six hours a night so that you can be up at four to get to the gym. Not sleeping to help you sleep makes no sense.
If you have no time, get creative about how you move. Dance around the kitchen while you are cooking. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Park as far away as possible so you have a hike to the entrance. Or skip for 5 minutes before you leave the house. Try it! It?s more exercise than you think.
If your life is so busy that you do not have time for your health, you probably could benefit from some changes.
- You are what you eat
A healthy diet is important for your overall wellbeing. The ?Right Diet? is an ideological minefield so find what works best for your body.?? If no carbs gives you an abundance of energy and makes your body sing, go with it. If everything raw, green and organic, puts a spring in your step, embrace it. If 5 Food Groups make a balanced diet for you, that?s how you should eat.
Take a common sense approach whatever your choice. Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can affect your sleep. Alcohol may make you feel sleepy at first, but it can interrupt your sleep later on.
If you eat a large meal at night, or a very spicy one, it could make you feel uncomfortable. If you drink a lot of liquid before you go to bed you may need several trips to the bathroom in the night.
- Comfort, Comfort, Comfort
Your bed needs to be the right comfort for you. It should not be too hard or too soft. It should also be the right size for you. You need to have room enough to move.
If you are sharing your bed with a partner, make sure that you choose a mattress that is big enough for both of you and minimises movement. You do not want to become aware of every movement your partner makes.
Your pillow must also provide you with plenty of support around your head, neck and shoulders. Call Bedworld for the?right advice and make the right choice for you.
- Is your bedroom too hot to handle?
The optimal temperature for a good night?s sleep is between 15 and 19 degrees Celsius. This is what research tells us.
If your bed is too hot your sleep will suffer. Your mattress should not generate and trap heat. A good quality mattress will be cooler to sleep on.
The type of bed linen you use is one of personal preference: choose what feels the best against your skin. ?Make sure it is comforting and buy the best you can afford.
- Put those worries aside!
Our lives are stressful. There could be work pressures or financial burdens keeping you up. Concerns about children and family; health issues; or future prospects may be playing on your mind. There could be a problem at work, or a situation at school. In the middle of the night things always seem much worse, and thoughts can come to gnaw at you.
There is little you can do to change the situation in the dark hours of the night. A good night?s rest, however, will give you the mental resources and the energy you need to tackle your challenges.
So what are some of the ways you can relax?
- Learn breathing exercises. Even the simple process of breathing to a count of five, in through your nose, and out through your mouth, can relax you.
- Learn a relaxation technique. You can begin by tensing your whole body, and then relaxing from the toes up, muscle group by muscle group.
- Try visualisation. Imagine yourself in a peaceful and calm space, completely at ease.
- The light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train
Artificial light can destroy your sleeping patterns. Especially blue light: light emitted from LED and fluorescent lights. Including digital devices: phones and tablets. This type of light suppresses the natural release of melatonin by your body, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle.
What does this mean? It means no screen time two hours before bedtime. It means no late night television. It means not checking social media when you wake in the middle of the night.
It is not all doom and gloom. There are natural ways of boosting your melatonin including getting more natural light in the daytime, or wearing amber tint glasses when you use your device. Apps are also now available to filter blue light from our devices. If you choose to take melatonin supplements to help you sleep, do your research. These are only effective over the short term and do have side effects.
You will sleep better in a dark bedroom. Block-out curtains can help make your bedroom very dark, and try do away with any night lights. If you do get up at night, try not to switch on any lights.
- Establish a night time routine
A night time routine gives the body cues that it is time to shut down for the evening. Think of it as programming the brain and the body, and preparing it for a good nights sleep. There is no ?ideal? or ?one size fits all? routine?. You need to find what works for you. It could look something like this:
- Have a warm bath.
- Drink a herbal tea or warm milk.
- Take a few minutes to reflect on the day.
- Read or do a relaxing activity (without a screen) for a few minutes.
- Go to bed when you are ready to sleep.
Going to bed signals to your body that it is time to sleep.
To sum it all up
To be healthy most adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. And most adults are not getting enough sleep. There aren?t enough hours in the day, and the easiest way to create more time, is to sleep less. ?Sleep when you dead? we joke. Except the effects of sleep deprivation are serious. They include impaired judgement, impulsivity, weight-gain, moodiness, poor productivity and diabetes.
Sleep hygiene could help. Implement these strategies and support your body and brain to get an optimal night?s rest. If you are still tossing and turning after implementing these strategies, it is time to seek professional help. There may be an underlying cause for your inability to sleep.
So, what do you think is missing from this list?