Getting a good night’s sleep is an essential facet to a healthy life, and it seems that not many of us are getting it. Why has a seemingly simple thing become so elusive for so many? Let’s look at five methods to get a good night’s sleep.
A large part of the sleep deprivation epidemic that much of the world is going through stems from the lifestyle that many of us lead. We stay up late, watching stuff or working as the case may be. Either way, we tend to end up looking at a screen of some sort, late into the night. The blue light of our screens doesn’t help with sleep. Far from it.
That blue wavelength is useful during the day as it helps with attentiveness and mood, but it makes us more wakeful during the evening and into the night as we’re trying to wind down. All the lights that we’re exposed to during the evening have disrupted our circadian rhythms in general, as before the advent of artificial lights, people spent their evenings in relative darkness. Blue light is particularly affecting. There are some studies that link exposure to blue light and lack of sleep to cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart diseases.
So what are the solutions? Limit your exposure to bright lights in general during the evening. Turn the brightness down on your computer, phone, tablet, whatever. I recommend installing flux on your computer. It’s an app that turns up the warm colours on your screen as it gets later. Most smartphones have a setting for the same effect. Lastly, try to switch off all screens for 2 hours (recommended time) before bed.
Have a Consistent Bedtime and Wake-Up Time
Getting up and going to bed at the same time every day helps a lot with a good night’s sleep, as the body will get used to the rhythm and the quality of that sleep will be higher. This can be hard to achieve, understandably so. Work and other commitments get in the way. Again, this speaks to lifestyle issues negatively affecting our sleep. We don’t always have a choice, having to stay up late to finish an assignment or project and having to get up early for work. Our irregular sleep patterns result in poorer sleep.
It’s recommended that you try to get into a regular sleep/wake cycle, especially on weekends. Adverse effects from an irregular pattern include weight gain and poor heart health. You may be getting the required eight hours of sleep, but you’re getting them at different times. Sleeping during the same hours will fix your clock and increase your health. You will feel more energized, vital, and your cognitive capacity and mood will improve.
If You Keep Tossing and Turning, Get Up
If you find yourself lying in bed unable to sleep for more than 15 minutes get up and leave your room. Those restless nights create a connection in your brain between your bed and wakefulness, which leads to more sleepless nights. To avoid this, go to another room and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Make sure all the lights are dim, so if you want to read, read with a soft light.
The same applies if you wake up during the middle of the night. Do not turn on bright lights or look at a screen, as this will tell your body it’s time to wake up.
Anxieties or ideas may come to you when your tossing and turning in bed. If it’s an idea, write it down and if worries are plaguing you, tell yourself that you’ll deal with them tomorrow. It’s good to assign time earlier in the evening where you go through your to-do list for the next day. Doing this too close to bed will. keep you up with thoughts of anticipation.
Finally, make sure your bed is just a place of sleep and sex. Don’t stay up reading there, or looking at your phone. This way your brain will associate your bed with sleep only, and you’ll be able to unwind more easily. Also, optimise the environment. Make sure it’s not too hot or too cold, and ensure that light is blocked at night and allowed to come in during the morning. And try to keep noise out.
For some people, napping during the day can impede a good night’s sleep. It confuses your internal clock, and in some cases actually makes you sleepier during the day. It’s not hard to connect excessive and irregular napping with sleeplessness at night, however, this isn’t a one and one makes two scenario. Napping doesn’t affect everybody the same way. You might find that taking naps during the day doesn’t affect your sleep at night. You just have to see what works for you.
Don’t Drink Alcohol or Coffee Before Bed
Caffeine and alcohol can seriously inhibit a good night’s sleep. Coffee stimulates your nervous system, making it harder to relax. Caffeine can stay in your blood for six, eight, even 12 hours after consumption. Keep that in mind and try not to consume it after 3 or 4 pm (depending on how it affects you personally). If you need to have a coffee make it decaf.
Alcohol alters your production of melatonin (the chemical that induces sleep). It may help some people to doze off, but it affects your REM stage sleep, which is mentally restorative. People may think alcohol helps them sleep but studies have found that it is particularly disruptive during the second half of the night. Don’t drink more than one or two standard drinks and make sure it’s several hours before bedtime.