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Simple habits that will help you sleep better
It’s seems as though you can’t go a day without hearing another story about the importance of sleep, how we’re not getting enough of it and just how much poor sleep quality affects our health.
While the odd restlessness night can be expected and is unlikely to cause any long-term problems, what do you do if you regularly find yourself struggling to get a decent amount of sleep?
Get in sync with your body’s natural sleep cycle
Our circadian rhythm is our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and getting in tune with it is probably the best thing you can do to get a better night’s sleep.
By keeping a regular sleep-wake cycle, you will naturally get better quality sleep which means that you will wake up feeling much more refreshed and energised. There are a number of simple ways you can get in sync with your circadian rhythm including:
- Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
- Avoid sleeping in – if you’ve had a late night, you’re better off having a daytime nap than sleeping in because this allows you to catch up on sleep without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm.
- Limit naps to 15-20 minutes.
- Try not to fall asleep on the sofa before you go to bed.
The Sleep Foundation website has further information: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/sleep-drive-and-your-body-clock
Control your exposure to light
Melatonin plays a big part in how well we sleep. When it’s dark, we produce more of it and start to feel tired. When it’s light, we produce less of the hormone and therefore feel more alert.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as closing the curtains when we go to bed however. Many aspects of modern life can alter the body’s production of melatonin and mess around with our natural sleep cycle including:
- Not getting enough natural sunlight – try to get outside into the sunshine as soon after you’ve woken up as possible. Also spend more time outside during the day and let as much natural light into your home or workspace as possible.
- Looking at screen too close to bedtime – the blue light emitted by our mobile phones, tablets, computers and televisions are very disruptive. For many of us, the last thing we do before bed is watch TV or check our mobile phones. The lights on these devices supress melatonin production however which is why so many of us now struggle to sleep. Try to avoid bright screens for one to two hours before you go to bed.
- Your room isn’t dark enough – in order for your body to continue producing melatonin during the night so you stay asleep, your room should be very dark. If you can still see your hand in front of your face with the lights off, this could be impacting your sleep cycle. Try to turn off all the lights in the house, make sure curtains are closed properly or even better, use solid window shutters because they offer near black out against light infiltration.
Exercise doesn’t just make you look and feel better, it also has a number of benefits when it comes to sleep:
- People who exercise regularly sleep better at night (https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20100917/exercise-helps-you-sleep#1)and feel less tired during the day.
- Regular exercise can improve the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnoea.
- It increases the amount of time you spend in deep, restorative stages of sleep.
It is however important not to do vigorous exercise at least three hours before bedtime because it stimulates hormones such as cortisol which can make it difficult to switch off.