It’s easy to fall into a bad sleeping pattern. Our schedules can get messed up for one reason or another – catching one more episode on Netflix, burning the proverbial midnight oil on your work, an extended stay in a different time zone and so forth. The temptation to just plain stay up late is strong; you could get more done or get a little more unwinding time in before you have to hit the daily grind once more.
The truth is healthy sleep is important for your overall health and quality of life. Your brain needs rest in order to help with memory, learning, problem-solving, attention span, creativity and much more. Sleep deficiency can hamper your ability to cope with changes in your life and could lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, and risky behavior.
In your physical health, the body uses sleeping time to heal your heart, blood vessels and more. A lack of sleep has been linked to such diseases as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes and more. Sleep has further been linked to an increased risk of obesity.
Studies indicate 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day is recommended for people ages 18 and older. What are some ways you can make sure you get the sleep you, your body and your mind needs?
Tip #1 is to get stricter about your sleeping routines. Keeping to a regular sleeping and waking schedule is among the best ways to make sure you’re getting enough rest. Your body has a natural sleep-wake cycle, also called a circadian rhythm. If you sleep for the same number of hours, even if you go to bed an hour or two sooner or later in the day, you will find yourself waking up refreshed, relaxed and ready to take on a new day.
If you can get to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including your days off, that’s even better. This will help your body fall asleep when it’s ready and allow you to wake up at a more natural time, as well. Try not to nap during the day if at all possible. If you are finding you need a basic energy boost, limit it to 15 to 20 minutes sometime in the early afternoon.
It’s easy to feel drowsy after your evening meal, but it’s best to fight the temptation to nod off on the couch while watching TV or something. This could throw off your natural rhythm and you’ll be right back where you started. Instead of turning right to the TV right away, keep your mind occupied by getting ready for the next day, doing some evening housekeeping, and so forth.
Tip #2 is to get some exercise. If you exercise regularly, you may find your sleeping has improved. A regular fitness regimen helps you feel less drowsy during the day and sleep better at night (as in a deeper, more restorative sleep). The more intense your exercise, the better your sleep benefits will be.
If you’re brand new to working out and you haven’t been seeing these sleep-related results yet, there’s no cause for concern. Sometimes it can take many months of a solid exercise routine to show sleep benefits. Be patient, trust the process and keep on pushing yourself!
Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand, but nutrition can have an effect on your sleep habits, too.
Tip #3 is to watch how and what you eat. In general, it’s a good idea to cut down on caffeine, especially towards the evening. Caffeine can have a worse effect on your sleep than what you may think. There are benefits to caffeine, such as alertness, but caffeine can affect your sleeping habits up to 12 hours after you take it. Smoking can have similar effects, and that’s just one more reason to quit.
Eating a big dinner is okay, so long as it’s balanced and good for you, of course, but it’s a good idea to eat earlier in the day. If you eat, for example, up to two hours before bed, you could experience stomach trouble and indigestion, which will, in turn, affect the way you sleep.
Tip #4 is limit your light exposure at night. While sunlight is good for you for a number of reasons, it’s best to avoid having too much light from electronics, TV and so forth when night falls. Blue light emits from our screens and it can disrupt our brain’s production of melatonin, which can help us sleep when it’s dark out. There are fortunately a number of ways to block blue light. If you wear glasses, ask your eye doctor about blue light blockers for your next pair of glasses. These glasses come with a coating that makes blue light less irritating to the eyes and have a lessened effect on melatonin production. Most TVs and electronics have settings to reduce blue light, so take advantage of that wherever you can.
The final tip for getting more sleep is considering supplements. There are supplements for just about everything these days, most of which have good health benefits, and there are some that can help you sleep better, too. Ginkgo biloba helps reduce stress and helps the body relax. 250 mg about an hour before bed for best results. In addition to being helpful for dozens of functions within the body, supplementing magnesium can help you relax and get more restorative sleep.
Lavender has been known for its calming qualities for many, many years. It’s been said taking the herb in 80-160mg doses with 25 to 46 percent linalool can help improve rest.
While you can’t go back in time to help yourself catch up on sleep and reap the health benefits, you can do something about it now. Keeping to a sleep schedule, working out, taking supplements, watching your diet and limiting your exposure to blue light are all great ways to get into a better sleeping habit.
What tips do you have for sleeping better?