When we talk about health, so much of the conversation focuses on diet and exercise.
Although these are both key components of a person’s wellbeing, we tend to overlook sleeping habits as a third, and crucial, factor. Not only does sleep make us feel good, but it also plays a major role in our physical, mental and emotional health. When we sleep, our bodies repair damaged heart and blood vessels, our immune systems go to work against harmful pathogens, and our hormones keep our metabolic processes functioning properly.
So, in addition to feeling less groggy, improving your sleep habits can make you an all-around healthier, happier person. If you struggle to sleep, here are some key tips for putting insomnia to bed.
Getting some form of exercise every day can go a long way towards helping you sleep at night. You don’t have to run a marathon to start seeing results. Whether it’s walking to the village shop, swimming at your local pool or cycling around the neighbourhood, anything that gets you moving for 15 minutes or more is all it takes. Just be sure to avoid exercising too late in the evening, as that can actually keep you awake at night.
Follow a consistent schedule
Although it’s common to treat ourselves to late nights on the weekends, experts say it’s best to stick to the same bedtime every day of the week. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps programme the body to wind down and gear up when it needs to. Sticking to the same routine is a huge part of consistently getting a good night’s sleep.
Skip the afternoon nap
Although napping can have a positive impact on some people’s nightly sleep routine – young children in particular – it can be detrimental to adults who suffer from insomnia. Instead, it’s better to postpone that impulse to doze off until bedtime, when you actually need it. If you do choose to nap, make sure it’s only for 15-30 minutes, before you drift into REM sleep.
Avoid caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol late in the day
Caffeine and nicotine stay in your system longer than you’d think. Make sure these stimulants don’t keep you tossing and turning by cutting back on cigarettes (or quitting altogether) and switching to decaf tea or coffee in the afternoons and evenings. Alcohol, although not a stimulant, can also keep you awake if you drink later in day.
Invest in a comfy mattress
Despite spending one third of our lives in bed, many of us are still sleeping on worn out, wafer thin, bumpy old mattresses. Although they can be expensive, if there was ever an item worth investing in, it’s a quality mattress. It plays a huge role in making you feel relaxed and comfortable, and can therefore be key to a good night’s sleep. If you share a bed with someone, ensuring you have a big enough mattress will also help you avoid those annoying nocturnal collisions. The average lifespan of a mattress is 8-10 years. If yours is more than a decade old, then it’s probably time for an upgrade.
After a full day of stimulating activities, we can’t expect our bodies and minds to shut off as soon as we turn out the lights. It takes time to wind down and remind ourselves that sleep is on its way. Start this process 45 minutes before bedtime, perhaps with a warm bubble bath (also known to help with sleep), a good book and a cup of chamomile tea.
Remember, just as winding down for sleep is a gradual process, so is programming the body to adopt healthy sleep habits. The key to making these tactics work is being consistent. Change won’t happen overnight, but over several, increasingly sleep-filled nights.
What are your best tips for getting a better sleep at night?