Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
The benefits of getting proper sleep are widely known. “Seven to eight hours a night” is something we hear all the time. Does that mean it is something practical that we can all start doing? What about the nights you lie awake in bed, unable to turn your mind off? What about shift workers, who have an irregular sleep schedule? Let’s look at some practical steps that can be taken to improve your quality of sleep.
Make sleep a priority.
If you go long enough without sleep, you will feel the effects both mentally and physically. It can be hard to say no to more work, or social engagements, but burning the candle at both ends will eventually take its toll. On top of feeling mentally and physically slower, your impaired immune system means you will inevitably end up being too sick to do anything. So making sure you get a good sleep every night will actually give you more time in the long run, and make the time you have more effective, because you will feel able to take on whatever life brings your way. Make sleep a priority and you will start reaping the benefits, and feeling better.
Cut down on caffeine.
Coffee can be a valuable part of your day, whether it is to help you wake up in the morning, perk you up mid day, or if you simply love the taste and rituals that come with it. However, indulging in caffeinated drinks late in the day could be keeping you up, as it lingers in your system for as long as six hours. A good rule would be to stop drinking coffee past noon, so that you can be sure by the evening, your body and mind will be ready to settle down.
Create the ideal bedroom for sleep.
Getting a good night’s rest depends on both internal and external factors. You can help create a more ideal setting for your body to sleep by tweaking a few things in your bedroom. Creating total darkness is one way that can help. You can do this by putting up blinds or curtains that black out any light that could be coming in from outside, and by not having any electronics in the bedroom. If you need your phone near by, or an alarm clock, keep it away from your bed, and face the alarm clock away from you to help create total darkness. A good mattress suited to your body’s needs, soft sheets, and a fan for background noise are also things that you can control to create the perfect setting for sleep.
Develop a bedtime routine.
Developing a routine in which you slowly calm your body down in the evening, and making it a pattern, will coach your body that sleep is on the way, and make falling asleep easier. It can be as simple as sipping on a chamomile (or other herbal) tea, dimming the lights, and reading a book for 30 minutes to an hour before the time you want to fall asleep. Doing this every day, or as regularly as possible, will help you consistently get a better sleep. Other helpful bedtime routine activities are taking a bath, putting on comfy pyjamas, and meditating. Remember that it takes time to form habits. If you make a conscious effort every day for about a month, soon your bedtime routine will become a natural part of your day-to-day life.
Meditating before bed, as mentioned, can help calm your body and mind. But even if you don’t wait until bedtime, incorporating meditation daily will help you become more mindful of your thoughts, more focused, and less scatter brained over-all, so when bed time comes around you will be less mentally overwhelmed and more at peace. If you think that meditation is religious, hokey, or just not for you, you’ll be surprised that there are many science-based, secular, and simple meditation practices. It can be as easy as taking 5 minutes and going to a quiet room (or putting in headphones/earplugs), closing your eyes and practicing deep breathing techniques. There are many meditation apps that exist to help; here is a list of some of the best ones out there right now. Calming your mind is easier than you think, and will do wonders for your sleep.
Even if you follow all of the above steps, life can get in the way of getting a perfect sleep every night. On top of that, our circadian rhythm flows in a way that makes napping a natural thing for the body. Power naps are a great way to wake up and feel rested during the day. Even a ten minute nap can help make you feel more awake for hours. For more on napping, how it helps and how to do it, check out this article from the BBC.
By following these steps and starting today, you can begin sleeping well consistently. Creating habits can be a struggle, as well as breaking the bad habits that may be causing you to lose sleep in the first place. However making sleep a priority is something you can do for yourself that will lead to an abundance of positive effects on your life, starting with simply waking up feeling refreshed and ready to take on your day. Sweet dreams!