We’ve all been there – you’re trying your best to sleep but your brain won’t let you. Like eating nutritious food, drinking water, and exercising regularly, getting quality sleep is an important component of our overall health. A lack of it can take a serious toll on your daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance, and even your weight. Yet many of us feel restless at night, struggling to get the sleep we need.
Sleeping less than seven hours is associated with a range of health problems including obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression and impaired immune function. It can also affect your ability to think, remember and process information.
Even though it might seem like a difficult task to fix your sleep cycle, you have much more control over the quality of your sleep than you probably realise. Just like the way you feel during your wakeful hours often hinges on how well you sleep at night, the cure for sleep difficulties often lies in your daily routine.
Here are some ways you can enjoy better sleep at night, boost your health, and improve how you think and feel during the day:
1. Stick to a sleep schedule:
You can greatly improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Consistency is the key, so don’t break your pattern over the weekends, when it may be more tempting to stay up late and then sleep in the next morning. Being consistent strengthens your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
2. Exercise regularly, ideally in the earlier hours of the day:
Exercising daily is considered to be the best way to improve sleep quality. Just 30 minutes of physical activity during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night. This is because physical activity helps you feel more tired at night and is a natural stress-releaser.
Exercising doesn’t have to be too complicated. Going on a walk or doing some stretches daily can make a big difference. To add more activity to your day, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk instead of catching the bus, and so forth.
3. Disconnect from devices:
Tablets, smart phones, and laptops tend to keep your brain wired, making it hard to truly wind down. The blue light emitted from these devices also suppresses your natural production of melatonin or sleep hormone. As much as possible, try to disconnect from all electronic devices 30 minutes or more before going to bed.
4. Managing stress levels:
Stress and anxiety easily affects how soon you fall asleep and how well you sleep. There are things you can do in your day to help manage your worries, like talking to someone you trust, starting therapy and switching off from the news.
If you often lie awake worrying, set aside time before bed to make a to-do list for the next day, jot down your worries, or write about the things you’re truly grateful for– this can be a good way to put your mind at rest.
5. Skip the nap:
Taking long naps in the day time or napping too close to your bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep for the night. This is because naps decrease sleep drive. It is ideal to avoid napping during the day and if you must, better to keep it short and before 5 p.m.
6. Don’t work or check e-mails at bedtime:
Give yourself a break from all the adrenal fatigue of work stress when you reach home. Staying away from your emails after work hours is totally worth doing as it makes it easy for us to rewind, stay relaxed and sleep better.
7. A warm bath:
A nice bath or shower an hour or two before bedtime is a great way to relax and decompress at the end of a long day. It helps lower both heart rate and blood pressure, and since our body temperature tends to drop after a warm bath, it works like magic to induce better sleep.
8. Avoid large meals before bed time:
Try to have your last meal 3 to 4 hours before bed. It’s hard for your body to rest with a full stomach when digestion is in full swing. So try eating light at dinner and avoid over spicy meals as they take longer to digest.
9. Say no to caffeine:
Caffeine is the enemy of sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that causes your body to think that it is wide awake. When you consume caffeine, it takes four to six hours to clear it from your system, so drinking coffee in the afternoon can make it hard for you to fall asleep at night. If you absolutely need a cup of coffee before bed, then try switching to decaf or green tea instead since these don’t contain any caffeine.
10. Go to sleep when you’re truly tired
Struggling to fall sleep often leads to frustration. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes of hitting the pillow, get out of bed, go to another room, and do something relaxing, like reading or listening to music or a podcast, until you are tired enough to sleep.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.