Developing a bedtime routine, turning your bedroom into a comfortable sleep retreat and paying close attention to what you eat and drink are some of the things you can do to increase your chances of getting the sleep you need.
Sounds straightforward, right? But in the fast-paced world that we live in it is often easy to neglect the little things that can make a big difference to our health and wellbeing.
Researchers have identified a variety of practices and habits known as sleep hygiene that can promote restful, quality sleep. Paying attention to the simple (and some not-so-simple) tips below will help you improve your sleep, regardless of what’s causing your problems.
Go to bed and get up from bed at the same time each day
Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day (including on weekends) regardless of the quality of the previous night’s sleep helps keep your body clock synchronised. If you can stick to a fairly regular waking and sleeping time, your body will become accustomed to it and sleeping will feel more natural.
Get regular exercise each day
Regular exercise (at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day) can be a key to helping you sleep better. Ideally, you should exercise earlier in the day. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before bedtime, to give your body a chance to wind down.
Spend some time outdoors in natural light
Light is important for the body to produce melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle. Early morning light is particularly helpful in synchronising your body clock.
Use your bed only for sleep and sex
Remove the television from your bedroom and don’t sit up in bed doing things that should be done in a study or lounge room, such as paperwork or studying or using a computer. The brain makes connections between places (the bedroom) and events (sleeping) and you need to reinforce these. Make sure the bed is for sleeping and that sleeping happens in the bed.
Make the bedroom as restful as possible
Keep your bedroom quiet and comfortable. Remove all the clutter. Avoid bright lights, noise and extremes in temperature.
Make sure you are comfortable
When was the last time you got a new mattress? Experiment with different kinds of pillows, bedding and even sleepwear to find what suits you best.
Don’t watch the clock
Clocks with bright numbers are a distraction, and obsessing over time will make it more difficult to sleep. Turn your clock’s face away from you.
Watch what you drink
Cut out stimulants that can keep you awake, such as coffee, tea, cola and other drinks containing caffeine particularly during the afternoon and evening. Don’t use alcohol to help you sleep. Although alcohol might make you sleepy at first, it can disturb sleep patterns and decrease the quality of your sleep.
Balance your fluid intake
Drink enough before bedtime to keep you from waking up thirsty, but not so much that you’ll need to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
Watch what you eat
Avoid large, heavy meals at night and try to finish dinner several hours before bedtime, but don’t go to bed hungry either. A warm drink of milk or a light snack before bedtime can help promote sleep.
Smoking cigarettes disrupts sleep because nicotine is a stimulant yet another good reason not to smoke. If you do smoke, don’t smoke close to bedtime or during night-time awakenings.
Allow yourself time to wind down
Set aside time for relaxation before bed. Try using relaxation techniques if you have trouble switching off. A warm bath about an hour before bedtime can be relaxing and cause your body temperature to rise and then fall, which may promote sleep.
Take a nap early… or not at all
If you find taking a daytime nap helpful and it doesn’t seem to be affecting your night-time sleep, it’s fine to keep it up. Just keep it short (about 15 minutes) and take it before 5pm. Naps late in the day will reduce your body’s need to fall asleep at night.
Don’t stay in bed if you are awake
You can’t force yourself to fall asleep. If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, then get up, go to another room, keep the lights dim and do something relaxing, such as listening to soft music. When you feel sleepy, go back to bed.
Don't rely on ongoing sleep assistance (unless your doctor suggests) however natural temporary aids can be helpful
Sleeping tablets or sedatives have a temporary role to play where there is some event or circumstance that may temporarily cause you to have trouble falling asleep, such as stress. Nature's Own Complete Sleep is formulated with Lactium a bioractive peptide which has been shown to help soothe stress and support a better night's sleep, and Zizyphus herb to calm and relax.
|| For a full 10-page in depth sleep handbook, check out the latest issue of Good Health magazine revealing NZ’s Happiness Survey results and bringing you part one of our three-part Happiness Plan. Get a great subscription deal on Good Health magazine at magshop.co.nz.|