When we sleep we quite literally power down and switch off. We recharge our bodies and minds. The dictionary defines sleep as “a condition of body and mind which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended.” It is a vital function for healthy living, and for most people lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can have a detrimental effect on how they live their lives. Take a small child for example – lack of sleep causes tantrums and extreme emotional responses to the smallest incidents. As adults, it is unacceptable to throw yourself on the floor and kick and scream, but lack of sleep can cause the need to react like this.
For years we have been told that eight hours is the optimum sleep time for adults, but the reality is that most of us don’t have the luxury of getting those much needed eight hours every night. Life just gets in the way. So, it stands to reason that quality is as important, if not more, than quantity.
Here are seven tips to help get the best out of your well deserved sleep time.
- Babies have routines for a reason, they work! Our bodies instinctively run on a day night clock, or circadian rhythm. We are meant to be awake during daylight hours and asleep at night when it is dark. Try to ensure that you go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning. Your body will get used to this routine and will make the most of the time it has to sleep.
- Make sure you sleep in a dark room – turn off all the lights, TV and computers. It will not only assist with melatonin production which aids with sleep, but it’s also much easier to actually fall asleep in a dark room.
- Avoid heavy meals and alcohol for at least two hours before you go to bed. Food and drink can cause heartburn and indigestion. Fatty food takes a long time for your body to digest so could keep you up at night. Alcohol also keeps you up at night. While it might help you to sleep initially, your body suffers from withdrawal symptoms in your sleep so causes you to wake up in the middle of the night. Give your body the chance to digest before you climb into bed.
- Exercise is a vital component of a good night’s sleep. Not only is it a great stress reliever, it also makes you physically tired and will therefore help you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Cut back on caffeine. Caffeine is a major stimulant so will prevent sleep. It also stimulates cortisol production and can make you very wired if you drink too much. Avoid caffeine after lunch, and don’t forget that tea also has caffeine in it too. Stick to herbal teas and hot water if you want a hot drink before bed.
- We live fast and stressful lives so need all the help we can shutting down - it is very important getting into bed, both literally and figuratively. Shut down all machines – TV, laptop, tablet, phone and eBook. You want to calm down, relax and get ready for sleep mode; your brain needs to wind down and all this technology stimulates and fires your brain up. Turning everything off turns on melatonin production and gets your mind and body ready for sleep.
- Last but by no means least, if you wake up feeling unrested, stiff, and weary or feeling like you’ve just gone ten rounds with Baby Jakes Matlala it might be time to look at a new mattress or pillows. It is very important to sleep on a mattress that is comfortable and supportive and to have pillows that hold your head correctly. No matter what measures you take to ensure good quality sleep, if you aren’t sleeping on the right bed you won’t sleep well.
Put these seven steps in place and you will be sure to sleep well and wake up ready to face anything life had to throw at you.