Sleep is the time when our bodies recharge. If we don’t get enough shut-eye, it can be hard to get through the days and weeks that fill our busy lives… we end up functioning less effectively, looking puffy and feeling awful. No thanks.
Sometimes, though, it can be hard to create a healthy sleep pattern. Any number of factors may interfere with our attempts to get to sleep on time and stay that way until the morning.
How to combat this?
Simple dietary measures can make a big difference. Another important influence is sleep hygiene – as this sets the tone for the quality (and quantity) of sleep you enjoy.
What do I mean by sleep hygiene? Well, it’s basically a pattern of behaviour that can set you up for a restful night:
1. Create a comfortable bed and a relaxing bedroom environment.
2. Keep your bed as a place only for sleep and sex. (What a wonderful place!)
3. Maintain a comfortable temperature in your bedroom, preferably not too hot or cold. Keep the room well ventilated so that you have plenty of fresh air.
4. Use a light-blocking window shade / curtain – particularly if you’re sensitive to light.
5. Don’t fall asleep with the TV on – in fact, get that television out of your bedroom all together. The same applies to laptops and gratuitous use of mobile phones – what is it with people being unable to (temporarily) separate from technology? It can wait until tomorrow.
6. Set a consistent time that you go to bed each night and wake up each morning. And even when you don’t fall asleep as early as you’d like, still wake up at the same time each morning. Also avoid sleeping late on the weekends – tempting though it is. One more thing: try not to nap during the day. An occasional disco nap is acceptable, but a daily snooze can wreak havoc with your body clock.
7. If you haven’t fallen asleep after around half an hour, get up and do something else until you feel tired again. Staying in bed and worrying about sleep (or lack thereof) will only prolong your insomnia. Plus, you’ll start to associate your bed with worry.
8. Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime – it will perk you up.
9. Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before heading to bed. Although people often associate a nightcap with relaxation, it actually disrupts your sleep pattern.
10. Exercise regularly – obviously, it’s good for you – but try to avoid over-exertion within 2 hours of heading to bed. That’s the time when you should be winding down, not firing up.