Your quality of sleep has a direct impact on your physical and mental well-being, including your temperament and ability to focus. Some people simply lay their head on the pillow, turn out the lights, and off to dreamland they go! But for most people, getting to sleep and then enjoying a good night’s sleep can be a challenge. Sometimes, just the thought of having to go to sleep is a source of stress.
Many things affect your quality of sleep, from what you eat, how active you are, screen time before bed, your room temperature, even your pillow! The good news is that there are ways you can control all of these factors to work in your favor, enabling you to fall asleep faster and into a deeper, longer-lasting sleep. While some sleep issues require medical attention, particularly if you suffer from frequent insomnia, the majority of sleep issues can be rectified naturally by following a few simple steps, both during the day and at night before bedtime.
How much sleep should you be getting?
Insufficient sleep can lead to cardiovascular disease, obesity and can even speed up the aging process!
Experts recommend that in order to achieve optimal physical and mental functionality, the average adult should get between 7-8 hours of sleep each night. School aged children require 9-11 hours and toddlers 9-10 hours with an average naptime of 2 hours during the day. And while some adults enjoy the indulgence of a daytime nap, anything longer than half an hour can prevent a restful sleep at nighttime.
7 tips for a more restful night’s sleep
- Create a bedtime ritual: Parents use bedtime rituals to get their young children to sleep and the same principle works for adults as well. Having a routine before bed helps to condition your mind and body for sleep. Some things to include may be your grooming routine (brushing your teeth, washing your face, taking a warm bath), reading a chapter from a book, deep-breathing meditation while sitting on your bed, or sharing the positives from your day with your partner before your head hits the pillow. Positive affirmations before bed have been proven to induce deeper sleep.
- Stick to a schedule: Research shows that sticking to the same bedtime each night reinforces your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. If you feel that you don’t go to bed early enough, do not drastically change your bedtime but instead go to bed ten minutes earlier each night for a week. By the weekend, you will have set your body clock back by an hour, therefore gradually settling into a new schedule whereby you are getting an extra hour of sleep each night.
- Be mindful of what you eat and drink: You should never go to bed hungry or over-full. The discomfort of either sensation will keep you awake. As a general rule of thumb, give yourself at least three hours to fully digest your last meal before going to bed. If you must snack in the evenings after dinner, stick to light foods that are easy to digest. Your body will burn the majority of the energy from that last meal in your final waking hours, so that by the time you go to sleep, your metabolism has slowed down and your body is better prepared to sleep.
Also, be mindful of your caffeine and alcohol consumption in the evenings. The stimulating effects of caffeine can take several hours to wear off and while alcohol may make you feel tired, it will actually prevent you from having a restful night’s sleep, not to mention increased trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night!
- Exercise: Getting exercise every day is an important part of maintaining your overall health, and that includes good sleep. Exercise stimulates your heart, muscles and brain activity. For these reasons, it is not recommended within three hours of bedtime, however, those who achieve recommended levels of exercise each day are more likely to achieve a restful night’s sleep than those who do not get regular exercise.
- Check your room temperature: As you sleep, your body temperature naturally drops. The National Sleep Foundation recommends setting your room temperature between 55-75 degrees, suggesting anything outside of that range will cause disrupted sleep. Layered sheets on your bed are a good way to maintain comfort throughout the night, with a flat sheet under a comforter or duvet.
- Unplug before bed: One of the biggest obstacles to a good night’s sleep is a busy mind. By watching television or checking your phone right before you climb into bed, you are worsening this problem. It is far better for your mind to calm down with a book or a light conversation before you go to bed. The light emitted from any electronic devices can impede your sleep as well because it stimulates the brain. If you can’t resist picking up your phone to check your social media in the night, consider keeping your phone outside of the bedroom. Creating a dark environment in which to sleep, including opaque curtains or even a sleep mask, will help you to stay asleep throughout the night.
- Find your optimal sleep position: You will change positions several times throughout the night and chances are, you will not wake up in the same position in which you fell asleep. But when trying to fall asleep, it is most beneficial to sleep on your back. Research suggests that sleeping on your back helps to prevent body pain better than any other position, as well as reducing acid reflux. If you feel more comfortable falling asleep on your side, make sure you have a pillow that keeps your spine aligned correctly. The packaging on most pillows will state for which sleep position they are best suited.
If none of these methods work for you, you may want to try massage therapy, which has been clinically proven to reduce stress in the body and better prepare you for sleep. Acupuncture is another method through which the body’s energy can be naturally relaxed. Try yoga or meditation in the evening, to help calm your mind before getting into bed – add an aromatherapy element if you are so inclined! There are several types of teas that can help get a good night’s sleep, such as lavender, chamomile or lemongrass teas. If none of these methods are helpful, make an appointment with your physician to discuss other options.
Sleep is vital to your health. Make sure you are getting enough.