From irritability, clumsiness and performing badly at work to pure exhaustion, studies show the effects of bad-quality or not enough sleep can rule, and even ruin, your life. Sleep doesn’t just make us feel better, it can improve our health by decreasing the risk of heart attack, diabetes and stroke, plus it helps us fight off minor ailments, deal better with depression and even tackle weight problems. Follow these tips for a better sleep:
1. Exercise Moderately
Getting some moderate exercise every day will help your body and mind feel ready for sleep at bedtime. But beware of evening workouts that may leave you too stimulated and hot to sleep well; finish exercising at least three hours before bedtime. Also, try to go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day, yes, even at weekends, and have breakfast at around the same time. This will help your body settle into the right biological rhythm, be alert at the right time of day, and ready for sleep at bedtime!
2. Wind Down Before Sleep
If you’ve been busy right up to bedtime, sleep may elude you, as your mind will still be on high alert Sticking to a relaxing pre-bed routine will help body and mind get into sleep mode and make it easier to drop off, advises the Sleep Council. Try a warm bath and a soothing drink or listening to calming music. Avoid going to bed with a full stomach, as digestion delays deep sleep, and have your last tea or coffee at around mid-afternoon – try a warm, milky drink without sugar or a herbal tea, such as chamomile, before bedtime instead. Spend five to 10 minutes relaxing when you get between the sheets – starting with your toes and ending with your forehead and eyes, tense then relax every part of your body, feeling yourself sink into the bed.
3. Sleep in a Dark Bedroom
Experts from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine advise thinking of your bedroom as a cave – it should be quiet, cool and dark. Humans are designed to sleep when it gets dark; it’s only then that the pineal gland releases the hormone melatonin, which helps you enter deep sleep. Complete darkness is what your body craves; experts say even chinks of light under the door and the LED light of your alarm clock or radio can disturb this deep sleep. So put up blackout curtains, hide the clock and, if light is still a problem, sleep wearing an eye mask.
4. Your bedroom should be a haven
Banish all electrical devices – computers, TVs and mobile phones -from the room. Several studies have shown the electromagnetic fields from Wi-Fis and phones can stimulate your brain when you’re trying to rest and even shorten deep REM sleep, so you wake up feeling groggy. Temperature is also crucial; studies show your bedroom should be between 16 and 20 C. It’s a slight drop in your body temperature that triggers sleepiness, shows research, so keep your bedroom relatively cool to help you reach the land of nod.
5. Have a Comfortable Bed
Your bed has just a 10-year lifespan – by then you’ll have spent over 29.000 hours in it! If it’s time to replace it, test a few to find one with the right support for your weight and build and get as big a mattress as your room will allow. A study a found when two people share a bed, the lighter one – usually the woman! – gets moved around and woken up by the heavier one. Tempur mattresses are made with a temperature-sensitive material that conforms to and supports your body shape, meaning there are fewer pressure points and you should toss and turn less. Or try a Relaxsan Dualcomfort double, made from two temperature-regulating single mattresses to give you individual support. The right pillow, with enough support for your head and neck, can help you wake refreshed and without aches and pains. Try out pillows before you buy, making sure your neck is supported and there is a good circulation of air around your mouth and nose.
6. Watch your Blood Sugar Levels
If you often wake in the night, an imbalance in blood sugar may be to blame. If you haven’t had enough nourishment during the day, your body and brain may expect more nutrients during the night, waking you up. Around half an hour before bed, have a small snack that’s rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes the production of the calming neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Try a couple of mini oatcakes with nut or seed butter, a couple of slices of turkey breast or a small carton of natural yoghurt with a swirl of honey. For herbal help, try proven remedy valerian, shown to raise levels of the nerve chemical gamma-aminobutyric which helps calm the brain and body.
7. Find an Alarm that you Like
Does your alarm make you grumpy? A new device claims to help you monitor your sleeping patterns and wake at the optimum time for you. The average adult goes through four to five sleep phases in an eight-hour period, and each phase has five stages – from light sleeping in stage one to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when you dream. Studies show dawn simulation lights can help ease symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, helping boost your mood.