Getting a good night’s sleep can mean the difference between having an amazing day, and having a bad one.
For such a simple daily activity, it is astounding how many things sleep can affect: memory, learning capability, mood, aging, health, mental health, weight gain and your ability to judge and reason.
According to sleep experts, the recommended amount of sleep for an adult per night sits between 7 and 9 hours. Depending on individual needs.
For many, sleep is an issue. Either they cannot get to sleep, have disturbed sleep, or sleep too much.
Below are 8 ways you can help yourself get the sleep you need to function at your optimal level.
Create a sleep schedule
One of the most powerful sleep tools that you can use is a sleep schedule, where you go to bed and rise at the same time every day, Monday through to Sunday.
Getting into a sleep habit will reinforce your body’s sleep/wake cycle and it will make it easier for you to fall asleep around bedtime, because your body is in a habit.
Have a bedtime ritual
Train your body and mind to recognise when it is time to wind down and go to sleep by having a bedtime ritual.
Around an hour before bed, start the ritual. It may include having a warm shower or bath, reading a book, or listening to calming music.
Do not use your phone, computer or television during this hour wind-down, the light emitted from these devises can make it difficult for you to get to sleep.
A good environment
The perfect environment for sleep is cool, dark and quiet.
If your bedroom does not fit this criteria you may need to alter it. If it is warm, get a fan or portable air conditioner. If it is noisy, invest in some earplugs, and if it is too light, you may need to get thicker curtains and remember to turn off devices that are throwing light like computers and televisions.
You also need a comfortable place to sleep. If your mattress or pillows are causing you discomfort, or making you have a sore back or neck in the morning, it may be time to buy new ones.
Don’t ever work from your bed. This will signal to your brain that your bed is a place for work and stress. And as you can imagine, this is not a great way to get a good night’s sleep.
Keep stress at bay
If you lie awake at night worrying, you may need to employ some relaxation techniques to get to sleep. Below are a few exercises that may help with that.
- Put your worries to bed: Before you hop into bed, visualise a big wooden drawer with a heavy iron lock. Now imagine you are taking all your worries and placing them one by one into the drawer. Close the draw and lock it. You will not open the drawer until the morning. Your worries have been put away for the night.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: Starting with your toes and working your way up to your head you want to tense each muscle group as hard as you can, breathing in and holding the muscles tense for ten seconds. Breathing out, relax those muscles. Then move on to the next muscle group. Progressively work your way from toes and feet, to calves, to thighs, to buttocks, to lower stomach and stomach, to lower back, to upper back and shoulders, to arms, to neck and face.
- Belly breathing: Place one hand just above your hips, onto the lower part of your belly, and the other hand on your chest. On a sigh, release the tension in your upper body. Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose right down into your lower belly over ten seconds. You want to make sure that the air goes deep down, not up in your chest. Once you have breathed in for ten seconds, hold your breath for three seconds and then breathe out for ten seconds. Repeat, breathing in for ten seconds, holding for three seconds and then breathing out for ten seconds for a few minutes until you feel relaxed.
- Visualisation: Imagine that you are sitting on a beach with warm sand underneath you, a gentle breeze blowing, miles of pale blue sky and wide blue ocean. Think about how the sand feels underneath you, how the sun feels gently touching your skin, imagine how the ocean smells and the sound of the waves crashing. Stay exploring this beach for ten minutes, until you feel relaxed, and are happily drifting off to sleep.
Eat, drink and exercise for sleep
Don’t go to bed stuffed to the brim with food, or really hungry.
It’s best not to have a big dinner in the evening. Instead try to eat a small or medium sized meal earlier in the evening, around 6.30pm to give your body time to digest before bed.
Also, try to avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evenings as these liquids can stimulate you and keep you awake. In addition, minimise the amount of liquid that you drink in the evening hours to avoid middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet.
30 minutes of exercise or more daily can also help you to fall asleep faster and sleep deeper. Ensure that this exercise is however not done right before bedtime as this may also keep you awake.
Get some light and darkness in your life
Not that long ago humans would start their day with the dawn and end it with the coming of darkness, purely because aside from fire, there were no other light sources other than the sun and moon.
Our bodies and minds are still biologically programmed for this, and if you don’t get enough daylight during the daytime, or if you get too much light at night, your sleep can be disrupted.
To remedy this, try to make sure you get out and about in the daylight. You could eat your lunch outside, walk to the train or bus station or exercise outdoors in the daylight hours.
At night, try to limit the amount of light you are exposed to. Don’t spend too much time on your computer or laptop, and avoid these in the hour before sleep. If possible have dim lights in your bedroom, or use a dimmer lamp next to your bed.
Reset your internal clock
If you struggle to wake up at a certain time, resetting your clock using food can be a great way to sort the issue out.
What you will need to do is stop eating 16 hours before you want to wake up. So for example, if you want to wake up at 6am, stop eating at 2pm.
Next work out when you need to go to bed to get 7 – 9 hours of sleep. So if you want to get 8 hours sleep and wake at 6am, you need to get into bed at 10pm.
Set your alarm for 6am and when you wake up have a huge breakfast.
Doing this once will alert your body to a new wake up time.
Wake up to a great morning!
Waking up to go to work or do a chore is no fun at all and is not an incentive to wake up. Instead you need to have a great reason to want to get up.
Plan your morning to start with an activity that you enjoy, like watching a favourite TV show, reading the next chapter of an exciting book, playing a video game, or having a fantastic breakfast.
Giving yourself a fun reason to wake up will help you to get out of bed quicker and start your day with a bang!
You may want to use one, a combination, or all of these tips to get a better night’s sleep. Whatever you do, keep them going, don’t stop if they don’t immediately produce results. Remember, habits take a while to form. But with persistence and determination, you will get a better night’s sleep!
Feeling well rested and ready to take on the world?
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