Do you want to be productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and full of energy all day long? The way you feel during your waking hour’s hinges on how well you sleep at night. The cure to sleep difficulties and daytime fatigue can often be found in your daily routine.
Your sleep schedule, bedtime habits, and day to day lifestyle choices make an enormous difference in the quality of your nightly rest. While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need 8 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. The following tips will help you optimise your nightly rest, minimise insomnia and lay the foundation for all-day energy and peak performance.
1: Keep a regular sleep schedule
Getting back in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep. If you keep a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, you will feel much more refreshed and energised than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times. This holds true even if you alter your sleep schedule by only an hour or two. Consistency is important.
Set a regular bedtime. Go to bed at the same time every night. Choose a time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn. Try not to break this routine on weekends when it may be tempting to stay up late. If you want to change your bedtime, help your body adjust by making the change in small daily increments, such as 15 minutes earlier or later each day.
Wake up at the same time every day. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock to wake up on time, you may need to set an earlier bedtime. As with your bedtime, try to maintain your regular wake–time even on weekends.
Fight after–dinner drowsiness. If you find yourself getting sleepy way before your bedtime, get off the couch and do something mildly stimulating to avoid falling asleep, such as washing the dishes, calling a friend, or getting clothes ready for the next day. If you give in to the drowsiness, you may wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.
2: Make your bedroom more sleep friendly
It’s not just the number of hours in bed that counts—it’s the quality of those hours of sleep. If you’re giving yourself plenty of time for sleep, but you’re still having trouble waking up in the morning or staying alert all day, you may need to make some changes to your sleep environment. The quality of your bedroom environment makes a huge difference in how well you sleep.
Keep the noise down. People differ in their sensitivity to noise, but as a general rule, you’ll sleep better when your bedroom is quiet. Even if you’ve learned to sleep through certain noises, such as the wail of sirens or the roar of a passing aeroplane, sleep studies show that these sounds still disrupt sleep. If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from barking dogs, loud neighbours, city traffic, or other people in your household, try masking it with a fan, recordings of soothing sounds. Earplugs may also help.
Keep your room dark and cool. When it’s time to sleep, make sure that your environment is dark. Even dim lights (especially those from TV or computer screens) can confuse the body clock. Heavy curtains or shades can help block light from windows, or you can try an eye mask to cover your eyes. The temperature of your bedroom also affects sleep. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 65° F or 18° C) with adequate ventilation. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep.
Make sure your bed is comfortable. Is your bed big enough? You should have enough room to stretch and turn comfortably. Your mattress and bedding are also important. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to invest in a new mattress or a try a different pillow. Experiment with different levels of mattress firmness, and pillows that provide more support.
3: Create a relaxing bedtime routine
If you make a consistent effort to relax and unwind before bed, you will sleep easier and more deeply. A peaceful bedtime routine sends a powerful signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses.
Turn off your television. Many people use the television to fall asleep or relax at the end of the day. You may even have a television in your bedroom. However, television stimulates the mind, rather than relaxing it. Even the most relaxing program or movie can interfere with the body’s clock due to the continuous flickering light coming from the TV or computer screen. You may be so used to falling asleep to the TV that you have trouble without it for the first few nights. If you find you miss the noise, try soft music. Reserve your bed for sleeping. If you associate your bed with events like work or errands, it will be harder to wind down at night. Your bed is your cue to switch off from work.
4: Eat right and get regular exercise
Your daytime eating and exercise habits play a role in how well you sleep. It’s particularly important to watch what you put in your body in the hours leading up to your bedtime.
Stay away from big meals at night. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Fatty foods take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and may keep you up.
Avoid alcohol before bed. Many people think that a nightcap before bed will help them sleep. While it may make you fall asleep faster, alcohol reduces your sleep quality, waking you up later in the night.
Cut down on caffeine. You might be surprised to know that caffeine can cause sleep problems many hours after drinking it! Consider eliminating caffeine after lunch or cutting back your overall intake.
Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. Drinking lots of water, juice, tea, or other fluids may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night. Caffeinated drinks, which act as diuretics, only make things worse.
Reduce smoking. Smoking causes sleep troubles in numerous ways. Nicotine is a stimulant, which disrupts sleep. Additionally, smokers actually experience nicotine withdrawal as the night progresses, making it hard to sleep.
5: Get anxiety and stress in check
Do you find yourself unable to sleep or waking up night after night? Stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well. When you wake up or can’t get to sleep, take note of what seems to be the recurring theme. That will help you figure out what you need to do to get your stress and anger under control during the day. If you can’t stop yourself from worrying, especially about things outside your control, you need to learn how to manage your thoughts. For example, you can learn to evaluate your worries to see if they’re truly realistic and learn to replace irrational fears with more productive thoughts.
6: Ways to get back to sleep
It’s normal to wake briefly during the night. In fact, a good sleeper won’t even remember it. But if you’re waking up during the night and having trouble falling back asleep, the following tips may help.
Make relaxation your goal, not sleep. If you are finding it hard to fall back asleep, try a relaxation technique such as visualisation, deep breathing, or meditation, which can be done without even getting out of bed. Remind yourself that although they’re not a replacement for sleep, rest and relaxation still help rejuvenate your body.
Do a quiet, non-stimulating activity. If you’ve been awake for more than 15 minutes, try getting out of bed and doing a quiet, non-stimulating activity, such as reading a book. Keep the lights dim so as not to cue your body clock that it’s time to wake up. Also avoid screens of any kind—computers, TV, cell phones, Kindles, iPads—as the type of light they emit is stimulating to the brain.
Postpone worrying and brainstorming. If you wake during the night feeling anxious about something, make a brief note of it on paper and postpone worrying about it until the next day when you are fresh and it will be easier to resolve. Similarly, if a brainstorm or great idea is keeping you awake, make a note of it on paper and fall back to sleep knowing you’ll be much more productive and creative after a good night’s rest.