Tips For A Better Night’s Sleep
From reading my post The Effects Of Sleep On Weight Loss And Exercise Performance you will know the importance of getting enough shut-eye. Below are some tips to make sure you get enough sleep.
Follow a regular sleep cycle
Getting up and going to bed around the same time every night, even on weekends, is the most important thing you can do to get good sleep. Sleeping and waking up at set times reinforces a consistent sleep rhythm. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock to wake up you should set an earlier bedtime.
If you need to make up for a few lost hours of sleep, you are better off having a daytime nap rather than sleeping late. This strategy will help you pay off your sleep debt without disrupting your natural sleep cycle. However keep naps to the early afternoon and under 30 minutes to avoid insomnia during the night. If insomnia is a problem for you, you should consider eliminating naps all together.
Create a relaxing bedtime routine
It’s important to understand that your body can’t immediately switch from ‘on’ to ‘off’. You need time to slowly shift into sleep. If you make a consistent effort to relax and unwind before bed, you will have better sleep. To help you prepare for bed, you could read a light entertaining book or magazine, take a bath, or listen to some relaxing music.
The bedroom is for sleep
Limit your bedroom activities to sleep (ok, and sex) only. Keep computers, work and TVs out of the bedroom to help strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.
On the topic of TVs, many people use theirs to fall asleep or watch just before going to bed. However TV viewing actually stimulates the mind, rather then relaxing it, not only due to content (e.g. disturbing or violent footage) but also the continuous flickering light coming from the TV (same applies to a computer screen). So it is best to turn off your TV before preparing to go to bed.
To improve the quality of your sleep, you need to ensure your bedroom is a sleep-friendly environment. A quiet, dark, cool and well ventilated room will promote good sleep. Wear ear plugs to block out noises (loud neighbours, city traffic, dogs barking, wildlife etc), use heavy curtains or wear an eye mask to block out light (light signals the brain to ‘wake-up’), keep your bedroom temperature around 15 – 20 degrees (Celsius), and make sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillows.
If you wake up during the night and have trouble falling asleep, don’t stress about it, as the stress will encourage your body to stay awake. Concentrate on relaxation rather then sleep. If you find that you are awake for more than 20 minutes, try getting out of bed and doing a quiet activity, such as listening to soft relaxing music or having a herbal tea. But be sure to keep the lights dim.
If you are having trouble falling asleep or getting back to sleep, another tip is to not check the clock. Watching the clock can increase your stress, so it is best to turn the clock’s face away from you.
Exercise and eat right
I couldn’t do a blog post on sleep tips without mentioning the importance of a healthy lifestyle. It’s particularly important to watch what you do and what you eat in the hours leading up to your bed time.
Key diet tips include:
- Avoid drinking coffee for 4-6 hours before bed time, as it is a stimulant and will keep you awake. Smokers should do the same with cigarettes.
- Avoid alcohol before bed. Many people believe that alcohol will help them sleep. However, while alcohol will make you fall asleep faster, the quality of your sleep will be diminished. It is best to stay away from alcohol a couple of hours before bed.
- Stay away from large and heavy meals at night, and/or try and make dinner time earlier in the evening to give time for your stomach to digest the food.
- Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening, as it will result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night.
Regular exercise will also help you sleep more deeply, and it doesn’t need to be in a tough workout in the gym. You can just take a brisk walk, ride a bike, kick a ball around with the kids, or work in the garden. You should also try and avoid exercising late at night, as exercising late actually stimulates the body, making it harder to fall asleep.
To get quality sleep each night you need to set yourself a regular sleep/wake routine, avoid watching TV or working in the bedroom, make your bedroom a sleep inducing environment, avoid dietary stimulants, and get in some regular exercise.