Your physical and mental health are directly affected by how well you sleep as well as the quality of your waking life. If you fall short on sleep, your weight, emotional balance, productivity and daytime energy can suffer seriously. Despite this, a lot of us are used to tossing and turning at night while we struggle to get the sleep that we so desperately need. Fear not, there are measures you can put in place to ensure a better night sleep.
If these simple yet important changes are put into your daily routine and you change your bedtime habits, there will be a profound impact on how good the quality of your sleep is— leaving you feeling more emotionally balanced, mentally sharp and bursting with energy throughout the day.
Tips on getting a good night sleep
Sometimes, it may seem impossible to get a good night sleep, especially when you’re still awake at 3 a.m., but you actually have more control over your sleep quality than you probably realize. How your body feels during waking hours is largely dependent on your sleep quality—the implication of this as that your sleep difficulties can therefore be helped with the way you structure your daily routine.
Lifestyle choices and unhealthy habits during the daytime can lead to your tossing and turning at night, which can then have an adverse effect on your weight, vitality, creativity, immune system, heart and brain health. If you can experiment with the tips discussed below, you will be able to sleep better at night, improve the way you feel and think during the day, and also improve your physical and mental health.
Stay synced with the natural wake-sleep cycle of your body
Staying synced with your natural wake-sleep cycle is one way for you to sleep better. If a regular schedule is kept for sleeping and waking, you’re going to feel a lot more energized and refreshed rather than sleeping and waking at different times, even if the amount of sleep time is the same, but the schedule is only altered by one or two hours. For you to be able to do this, try the following:
- Get up and go to sleep every day at the same time: This is going to help in setting the internal clock of your body, leading to quality optimization of your sleep. You can select a bedtime for when you usually feel tired, which can prevent you from tossing and turning. If you’re getting a sufficient amount of sleep, you should naturally wake up without an alarm. If an alarm is still needed for you to wake up, then you should consider an earlier bedtime.
- Avoid sleeping in: The greater the variability in your sleep schedule, the worse you will experience jetlag-like symptoms. If there is a need for you to catch up sleep after sleeping late, opt for a daytime nap instead of sleeping in. This will give you the opportunity to catch up on the sleep you have missed without disrupting your natural wake-sleep cycle.
- Be smart when napping: Even though napping is one of the best ways for you to catch up on missed sleep, if you find it hard to fall asleep at night, napping could make it worse. Naps should be limited to about 20 minutes a day in the afternoon.
- Drowsiness after dinner should be fought: If you feel sleepy long before your scheduled bedtime, try to get involved in an activity that is mildly stimulating, like preparing clothes for the following day, speaking to a friend on the phone or washing dishes. If you do not do this and you sleep ealry, it’s possible that you will wake up in the middle of the night and might have trouble getting back to sleep again.
Exposure to light should be controlled
The hormone melatonin occurs naturally and is controlled by light exposure. This hormone helps in regulating your wake-sleep cycle. Anytime it is dark, more melatonin is secreted by the brain, which makes you sleepy. If there is light, less melatonin is secreted by the brain which makes you a lot more alert. There are many aspects of modern life that can alter the melatonin production of your body. Discussed below are tips on how you can influence light exposure during the day, and also at night.
- In the morning, get exposed to bright sunlight: The light shining on your face is going to help you to wake up. You can do this by eating breakfast beside a sunny window or having your coffee outside.
- Spend time outside during daylight: you can go dog walking, exercise outside or enjoy your work breaks outside under the sun.
- Ensure there is natural light in your workspace or home: During the day, try to keep blinds and curtains open and move your table nearer to a window.
- Light box therapy can be used: This is going to help to simulate sunshine, which is especially helpful during winter.
- About two hours before bedtime, avoid bright screens: TVs, computers, tablets and phones emit a blue light that is very disruptive to melatonin production. It’s possible to lessen this impact when you use smaller screen devices, using light-altering software or lowering the brightness.
- Avoid late-night television: Apart from the fact that TV light suppresses melatonin, the programmes on TV are often not relaxing, but stimulating. Listening to audio books or music is a better choice in the evening before bed.
- The use of backlit devices to read should be avoided: E-readers which do not have an intrinsic light source are better than backlit tablets.
- If getting up at night, make sure the lights are down: If you need to get out of bed during the night, you should try to install a dim nightlight or use a small flashlight so that you can easily fall back to sleep.
- The room should be dark when you want to sleep: you can use sleep masks, heavy curtains or even shades in blocking off lights.
Exercise in the day
When people exercise frequently, they tend to sleep a lot better at night and often don’t feel sleepy in the day. Exercising regularly can help to alleviate the many symptoms of sleep apnea and insomnia and can also help in increasing the amount of sleep in the restorative, deep sleep stages.
The more you exercise vigorously, the more your sleep benefits. Even light exercise like a 10-minute walk can improve sleep quality. The full effects of regular activity on sleep might take a couple of months to become clear. This is why it’s important to be focused and patient when developing good and lasting exercise habits.
Exercise is known to speed up the rate of metabolism, stimulate hormones like cortisol and elevate the temperature of the body. This is no problem as long as the exercise is done in the afternoon or morning. When exercise is done close to your bedtime, it can disrupt your sleep. Vigorous or even moderate workouts should be finished around 3 hours before your bedtime. If there are still sleep difficulties after this, you should try moving the workouts to an even earlier time. Sleep can also be promoted by low-impact, relaxing exercises like gentle stretching and yoga in the evening.
Be mindful of your eating and drinking habits
Your eating habits throughout the day, especially in the few hours before your bedtime, play a very vital role in the quality of sleep you get. Here are some tips on how you can improve your sleep by being mindful of this:
- Limit nicotine and caffeine: It might come as a shock to you that that sleep problems can be caused by caffeine, even up to twelve hours after you have consumed it. Another stimulant which can affect your sleep is smoking, especially if it’s done close to your bedtime.
- Avoid big meals at night: Your dinner time should be early and try to avoid rich, heavy foods two hours before bedtime. Also, acidic and spicy foods can result in heartburn and stomach trouble.
- Alcohol should be avoided before bed: Even though a nightcap can help you to relax, alcohol can interfere with the sleep cycle.
- Avoid drinking a lot of fluids in the evening: Frequent trips to the bathroom during the night will disrupt sleep.
- Reduce intake of refined carbs and sugary foods: Consuming a lot of refined carbs and sugars like pasta, white rice and white bread during the course of the day can keep you awake at night and can also cut short restorative, deep sleep stages.
- Choose good snacks at night time: There are some people that believe light snacks right before bed can help boost sleep, whilst late-night snacking can lead to indigestion for other people. Some appropriate bedtime snacks include a banana, yogurt or milk, a little bowl of low-sugar, wholegrain cereal and half a turkey sandwich.
Clear your head and wind down
If you have discovered that you usually find it very hard to sleep, or you usually wake up in themiddle of the night, it might be a result of residual anger, worry or stress. If chronic worry or anxiety takes over your thoughts at night, you can take some steps to help you put a stop to the worrying and see life in a more positive perspective.
If what is keeping you up at night is stress as a result of school, family or work, then it’s possible that you require stress management. Effective management of your time, maintaining a positive and calm outlook, and handling stress productively will go a very long way in getting a good night sleep.
When the brain is over-stimulated during the course of the day, it’s always harder for it to unwind and slow down at night. Most of us stress our brains throughout the day by frequently interrupting tasks to check social media, emails and our phones. It’s best if specific times are set aside for things like this, so that one can focus better on the task at hand. When it is time for sleep at night, your brain will looking for new things to stimulate it, which will give you the opportunity to fully unwind.
There are a few relaxation techniques and tips that you can practice before you go to bed that can help you to prepare for sleep by calming your mind and winding down. These include:
- Deep breathing: Your eyes should be closed, then take slow, deep breaths and trying to ensure that each new breath is deeper than the last.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: You can start by tensing all of your muscles, starting upwards from your toes. Tense them as tightly as possible and then relax completely. Repeat this until you have reached all of the muscles in your body.
- Visualize a restful, peaceful place: First, your eyes should be closed, and then you can imagine one place that is peaceful and calming. You can then concentrate on the feeling of relaxation that this place gives you.
There are couple of things that you can also do to help you relax before you sleep. Some of them include:
- Reading a magazine or book under dim light.
- Taking a warm bath.
- Listening to soft music.
- Doing easy and gentle stretches.