Most of us don’t get enough, good quality sleep – and it’s well known that this has a negative effect on our mental health and physical health.
When we don’t sleep well, our brains struggle to function properly, which exacerbates conditions such as depression and anxiety. Our bodies too suffer the ill effects of bad sleep, making us more susceptible to illness, lowering our pain thresholds, and affecting our diet and exercise choices, leading to potential problems with our weight.
So, with all this information telling us to improve sleep, the only question that remains is: how do we do it?
Tip One: Control Your Sleep Environment
If you’re going to get good sleep, you need to have a good place to do it!
- Keep your bed for sleep and sex – if it’s a space set aside for those things, your brain will find it easier to switch off in that environment
- Block out light – invest in some thick curtains, and turn off any devices that emit light (that includes phones, tablets and backlit e-readers!)
- Make sure your bed is comfortable for you – so this means a supportive mattress, the right number of pillows for you, and enough room to move in your sleep without causing problems
- Bed time is quiet time – if you can’t block out all noise due to noisy neighbours or traffic, invest in some ear plugs to keep your sleep undisturbed
- Make sure the temperature of the room is right – while the image of a nice warm bed is probably the most inviting, it might not be the best for sleep. Our body temperature drops when we sleep, so a nice cool environment encourages better sleep
Tip Two: Build Better Habits
If you’re in the habit of going to bed at a certain time, it will make it easier to get a good night’s rest consistently!
- Have a bed time – humans are creatures of habit, so going to bed at the same time every day (around 7-8 hours before you need to get up) will help you maintain a good sleep pattern
- And to that end, try not to sleep in at the weekend – if you keep a good pattern at the weekend, you won’t have that jet-lagged feeling on Monday morning!
- Late nights happen, so if you’re going to an event take a controlled afternoon nap rather than sleeping in the day after. This way, you decrease your sleep deficit without interrupting that rhythm you’ve built up
Tip Three: Be Smart About Diet and Exercise
We all know healthy habits make for healthier minds and bodies (even if we ignore that advice now and again), but there are specific things to take into account when it comes to sleep.
- Cut the caffeine – I’m not going to tell you to skip your morning coffee, and we all know that caffeine is a stimulant and not conducive to good sleep. But did you know that caffeine can still be having an effect on your body up to 12 hours after consumption?
- Studies have shown that those who undertake regular exercise have better sleep, although it can take up to several months for the benefits to take hold. Just make sure you don’t exercise from about 3 hours before you sleep to allow your body to cool down
- Avoid having big meals late at night – leave at least two hours between eating heavy or rich foods before going to sleep to avoid disruption due to heartburn or stomach trouble.
- And similarly, don’t drink too much in the evening – this point is actually twofold. Firstly, avoid consuming too much of any liquid, as you don’t want to interrupt your sleep by needing the bathroom in the night. Secondly, while a nightcap might seem like a good idea to help you relax, alcohol consumption leads to poor quality sleep after you’ve nodded off.