When it comes to your health, a good night’s sleep is just as important as a balanced diet and regular exercise. Repeated patterns of poor sleep can have incredibly detrimental effects on both your physical and mental health, affecting our hormones, immunity, brain functionality, physical performance and mood, among other things. So how can we get improve the quality of our sleep?
Check out these 10 easy ways to improve your sleep
Try and get more natural light in the day
The circadian rhythm is our body’s natural body clock, which works to regulate our body and hormones to help get us into a healthy sleep pattern. One of the biggest factors in maintaining your circadian rhythm is ensuring you are exposed to enough natural sunlight during the day. This helps to boost your vitamin D levels, and assists in improving the quality and duration of your sleep during the night.
Get less light at night
Lots of natural light in the day keeps us energised and awake, while minimal light has the opposite effect at night. One of the biggest causes for poor sleep patterns at night has been the advance in technology, with blue light emitted from our cell phones and devices keeping us awake. This light exposure confuses the circadian rhythm and actively works against sleep hormones, making your body think it is still daytime. While there are blue light glasses available and the ability to adjust the display settings on devices to reduce the level of blue light omitted, the the most effective solution is simply not to use these devices in the hour leading up to the point where you want to go to bed.
Keep a schedule
By being consistent with the time that you go to sleep and wake up every day eg. going to bed at 10.00pm and getting up at 7.00am you are assisting your body clock and training it to get into a routine, which will eventually help to improve your sleep.
A good nap is often seen as one of life’s simple pleasures, but regularly taking naps during the day can have a negative effect on proper sleep at night. Whilst short power naps can be beneficial, long or irregular napping during the day can mean that you struggle to sleep at night. Even when it feels difficult, try and avoid taking naps during the day for a longer, more effective sleep when you go to bed.
Avoid eating too late in the evening
Eating late in the evening may impact the quality of your sleep and the natural distribution of hormones. Both the amount and type of food will be a key factor in how much of an impact this has. Eating before you go to be will not only affect your sleep, but will also have a negative impact on your metabolism and may cause you to gain weight.
Stop the caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant, and when consumed in the evening it will stimulate the body’s nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing. Caffeine can stay in your system for around 6-8 hours after consumption so it is recommended that you do not have large amounts after around 3-4pm. have a cut-off point each day where you switch to decaf.
Optimize your environment
Taking measures such as eliminating external light and noise can greatly benefit the quality of your sleep. Having your room at an optimum sleeping temperature can also be effective (20°C seems to be the general consensus, but this will differ depending on individual preference). Make your bedroom a quiet, clean and relaxing environment to give help improve your sleep.
Taking a bath or shower
Studies show that taking a bath before bed can greatly relax you and assist you in getting an improved, deeper sleep. A warm soak works to physically relax you, and allow you to mentally unwind. There are lots of essential oils and ingredients that you can add to your bath (such as lavender or citrus extracts) for an even more relaxing experience. If you’re not a bath person, a shower will work just as well.
Even just a couple of drinks can negatively affect your sleep pattern. Similarly to late-night eating and caffeine, alcohol can negatively affect your body’s circadian rhythm. Consuming alcohol at night can also cause or increase symptoms of snoring, disrupted sleep patterns, and sleep apnea.
Develop a pre-sleep routine
If you are someone that struggles with your sleep (particularly falling asleep), a useful exercise might be to create a pre-sleep routine. This can contain a number of relaxation methods, including meditation, deep breathing, a hot bath, reading, listening to relaxing music, or anything else that works for you. The idea is to clear your mind and prepare yourself for sleep, and a consistent routine will mean that over time, your brain will begin associating these activities with sleep, and start winding down…
Sleep is so important to our mental and physical wellbeing. Try some of these ideas to help you improve your sleep and feel much more rested the next day.