The world just seems a better place after a good night’s sleep, but not getting good quality sleep is a problem that plagues many of us.
While serious sleeping disorders should be treated with medical consultation, there are many things that can be done to ease minor sleeping problems.
During the day
The things we do during our day have a large impact on the way in which we sleep.
Exercise: Exercising during the day is a great way to use up physical energy and prepare the body for a good night’s rest. Aim to do your exercise during the day (morning or early afternoon). Evening workouts will raise your body temperature and cause unnecessary stimulation.
For optimum sleep conditions, your body temperature should be low and you should not be over stimulated.
The Vices: Smoking, excess caffeine and too much sugar, these can all play havoc with sleep patterns. Caffeine and sugar, as stimulants, can have long lingering effects on our levels of alertness. Aim to limit sugar and caffeine intact after lunch.
Smoking suppresses the body’s ability to gain REM sleep, the deep level of sleep that causes us to feel refreshed. Smokers also experience withdrawal symptoms during the night, causing an increased likelihood of waking up. Kick the habit.
Napping: Although naps can feel very refreshing, they can be disruptive to your night sleep patterns. Ideally, naps should be no more than 30 minutes and done in the early afternoon.
Getting ready for bed
Getting in the right physical and mental state to go to sleep is very important. Consider what you are doing and eating in the hours before sleep.
Food: While a big meal does make us drowsy, going to sleep on a full stomach means that your body is busy digesting and this can interfere with the ability to sleep properly.
Chose to either have the main meal of the day at lunchtime or before 7 pm. As an evening snack, try having calcium-rich foods, which calm the body and prepare for sleep. Some yoghurt and a herbal tea, or a glass of milk and a banana are good choices.
Relax: Try to allow at least an hour before you go to bed in which you are not doing stressful or stimulating activities. Read a gentle book, have a long bath or try some yoga or meditation.
In the bedroom
Setting the scene: The space that you sleep in does impact the quality of your sleep. Try to avoid working, eating, using the computer or TV while in bed.
Aim to have your bedroom as clutter free and inviting a sleep-space as possible. Make sure the room is dark enough, and avoid sound pollution. Consider earplugs for noises you can not minimise.
Allow yourself to be warm and cosy, but do not overheat your room. The optimum heat for sleep is to have the room a bit cool.
And finally, relax. Don’t worry if it still takes you a while to drift off. Stay calm and restful, and sleep will come.
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