We’re all taught to get adequate sleep. If we don’t, the lack of sleep can have some serious consequences on our health.
Sleep helps us with several crucial functions:
- Detoxifying waste from our brains and nervous systems
- Conserving energy so we can do more during the day
- Creating, repairing and growing our proteins, muscles and tissues
- Preventing heart problems
- Releasing hormones, which manage weight and help cells use glucose (sugar)
- Regulating emotions
- Supporting our immune system
In this blog, we’ll discuss 7 ways you can get better sleep to prevent your chances of illness and achieve optimal performance when you’re awake.
1. Set your bed up for success
Your pillow should not be too fat and not too flat to support the natural curve of your neck when you're asleep on your back.
If you have mild lower back pain, it can disturb the deeper stages of sleep. Sleeping on your side, put a pillow between your legs to align your hips better and ease any stress on your lower back. If you sleep on your back, tuck a pillow under your knees.
Invest in a higher quality mattress and bed sheets if they aren’t comfortable and are impeding your sleep.
2. Create relaxing rituals and schedules
A sleep schedule is a must! To ensure you get your 7 to 8 hours nightly, go to bed and get up at the same time every day, without varying more than an hour on weekends. Avoid using your bed for other activities like watching TV, which is stimulating. It’s good to get in the habit of making your bed right when you wake up so you’re not tempted to crawl back in at other times of the day.
Many people require a relaxing ritual to “get ready” for bedtime. This can include closing the curtains and shades on windows, taking a bath, meditating, deep breathing, journaling, reading, smelling essential oils like lavender, or listening to soothing music. Ensure that your bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet. Avoid the temptation to be on a laptop or mobile device, as light exposure tells your brain you’re still in daytime, and it may be harder to fall asleep. Use earplugs and an eye mask if you need to.
Try not to sleep with your furry family members. Cats and dogs moving in bed can disturb your sleep, and may also bring allergy triggers like dander, fleas, fur, and pollen into your bed.
3. Eat early
Those who practice Ayurveda will tell you that nighttime is the time for digestion. That means you should finish your last meal of the day at least two or three hours before you plan to go to bed. If you’re going to bed hungry, eat a small, healthy snack like a piece of fruit, crackers, or sugarless cereal that won’t be difficult to digest.
Smoking, alcohol, and caffeine (in chocolate, tea, soda, and some pain medications) all have effects that can take hours to wear off, so they can also prolong your awakeness.
Try to drink 2 hours before bed or else you may need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. If you have a tendency to wake up thirsty, drink a bit of water just before bed.
Regular physical activity will help you sleep better and control your hormone levels; it secretes cortisol and boosts the effect of sleep hormones such as melatonin.
Morning workouts are more ideal, as exercising 3 hours or fewer before bedtime will stimulate your body, which needs time to unwind before sleeping.
If you find yourself sluggish in the morning, expose yourself to bright daylight to help start your body’s natural circadian rhythm. If you don't get much sunlight in the morning, be sure to step outside at least once during the day.
5. Lower your stress
Feeling stressed will make it more difficult to fall asleep because the stress hormone cortisol is associated with alertness. Meditation and other relaxation practices can help with this. If you find yourself anxious about what you need to do tomorrow, get in the habit of organizing the next day’s priorities before or shortly after your work day ends so that you’re more prepared for the day ahead.
6. If you must nap, nap before 5
Naps are fine every now and then, but try not to nap for more than 30 minutes and ensure it isn’t after 5:00 p.m.
If you tend to feel sluggish in the afternoon, try taking a short walk, chatting with someone, or drinking cold water or other low or no-caffeine beverage.
7. Visit your doctor
Although you can take sleep medications, they can become habit-forming and may have side effects; they should only be a short-term solution. If you snore, have trouble sleeping for over a month, or have arthritis, asthma, depression, the urge to move your legs, or pain in your stomach, chest or throat, these are all signs of common sleep disruptors. Visit your doctor to explore any underlying causes you may not be aware of.
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