Sleep is undoubtedly one of the most important influences on our physical and mental well-being. A good night’s sleep has been shown to boost memory, attentiveness and creativity, as well as lower stress, blood pressure and curb inflammation. We all do our best to get the recommended six to eight hours of sleep each night, but sometimes even when we do, we still wake up tired and groggy as if we’d barely slept at all.
You may wonder why you are still waking up in a daze. This is because, like many things in life, the quality of the sleep we get is just as important as the quantity…
Here are five tips to help us all get the deep, restful sleep our bodies deserve. Follow these and see if you wake up feeling refreshed.
1. Establish a routine and stick to it
Train your mind and body to know when it is time to go to sleep. We as humans are creatures of habit, so if we create a routine for ourselves – especially going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day – we will set our ‘internal clocks’ to expect sleep after a certain time each night.
Leading up to the time you set to go to sleep, develop a pre-sleep ritual with relaxing activities that help you de-stress from the day’s happenings. Dim the lights and read a book, do yoga, take a bath, listen to soft music, meditate – all these things can help you ease the transition from being awake to asleep. Find one that works for you and make it your pre-bed ritual.
2. Be mindful of what you eat and drink
Our diets certainly affect our daily health, but what you eat and drink – especially before bedtime – can also have a great impact on the quality of your sleep.
It’s common knowledge that caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you awake, so it’s best to avoid ingesting high quantities of it within the hours leading up to bedtime. If you’re used to having a cup of coffee in the evening, switch to a different warm drink such as chamomile tea, which has the opposite effect and can actually help you fall asleep.
For the sweet tooth out there, dark chocolate can also be a culprit in causing poor sleep. This delightful treat contains more than 30 percent of the caffeine found in a standard cup of coffee, so if you find yourself craving something sugary, try a small serving of yogurt with granola and fresh fruit instead.
While an alcoholic drink in the evenings may help you fall asleep, studies have shown that it can prevent you from entering the deep stages of sleep that are vital to restoring your mind and body. Skip the nightcap and see if this change helps you wake up refreshed.
Caffeine and alcohol may seem obvious, but there are also many common foods you may be eating without realizing they are detrimental to your rest. High-fat and high-protein foods such as steak, as well as those containing high amounts of fibre like broccoli or cauliflower, shouldn’t be eaten too close to bedtime. These kinds of foods take longer for our bodies to digest, which can cause discomfort while you sleep. It’s best to eat dinner earlier in the evening. If you’re still hungry, have a light snack before bedtime.
3. Allow yourself to wind down
Help your body wind down by disconnecting yourself from the outside world. Continuing to work on tasks from the day or engaging in exciting or stressful activities up until the time you go to bed can make it more difficult to fall asleep and can effect the quality of your sleep.
A lot of us are guilty of trying to relax with the telly or skimming social media on our smart phone in bed, but this can actually have the opposite effect. Turn off your devices as the light from them can activate your brain causing your body to think it’s time to wake up instead of go to sleep. Instead, practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation to help lull yourself to sleep.
4. Get regular exercise
We all know a trip to the gym is good for our health, but did you know it is good for your sleep? Regular exercise, especially when done earlier in the day, can help you fall asleep faster and increase the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. Keep in mind exercising speeds up your metabolism, elevates your heart rate, and stimulates your brain and muscles, which can cause it to be more difficult to fall asleep if done too late in the evening. Stick to completing any moderate to vigorous exercise more than three to four hours before bed for better rest.
5. Ensure your bedroom is a sleep-promoting environment
The environment in which we lay down to rest also plays a role in the quality of sleep, so make sure your bedroom is set up in a way that allows you to sleep soundly. The room should be cool, dark and quiet. Use blackout curtains or a sleep mask to block outside light, and if you live in a busy area, use earplugs, a fan or other white noise to drown out outside sounds. These things, coupled with a comfortable, but supportive mattress and pillow, will help ensure you sleep like a baby.