The benefits of a good night’s sleep simply can’t be underestimated. I simply can’t function properly without at least 7 hours! However there are millions of people who live their lives without the rest they need for a good quality of life. According to the NHS, the amount of sleep required depends on the individual, but feeling perpetually tired should never be considered as normal. Thankfully, there are some relatively simple strategies you can try in order to improve both the amount and quality of sleep you get over the course of the average week.
1. Stick to a sleeping schedule
Most sleep experts agree that going to bed at the same time every night is very important. Equally as important is waking and rising at the same time every morning. A consistent sleeping pattern is believed to keep the body’s natural clock working normally, which is one of the critical factors in getting a good night’s sleep. It’s important to maintain your sleeping schedule during the weekends too, as just one or two nights of irregular sleep can throw your body clock out of sync for several days!
2. Start a sleeping diary
If you find that your sleep is being interrupted, and you can’t figure out why, start a sleeping diary in order to investigate the root causes of your problem. Note down what time you go to bed, what you eat during the four hours before you turn in for the night and how many times you wake up. You may also want to record the time you wake, and any exercise you take through the day. Of course, it is impossible to monitor your sleeping patterns when you’re unconscious through the night, which is why a sleep tracker might be very useful.
3. Talk to your doctor about medication you’re taking
A number of prescribed medications are known to interfere with sleeping patterns, so it might be worth consulting your doctor for more information. For instance, anti-depressants and medication prescribed for high blood pressure are known to affect quality of sleep in a small number of people who take these drugs on a regular basis.
4. Get lots of exercise
Exercise is a great way of expending energy and preparing your body for a good night’s sleep. However, 30 minutes of rigorous exercise is known to increase body temperature for several hours afterwards, so never workout within four hours of going to bed. However, as your body cools after a period of exercise, it will release melatonin which should make you drowsy.
5. Cut out the stimulants
Smoking is a barrier to a good night’s sleep for a number of reasons. Not only is nicotine a known stimulant, it can exacerbate sleep apnea and a range of breathing problems that will interfere with your sleep. Caffeine is another stimulant that can increase brain activity and stop you from drifting off when you want to. Try to stop drinking tea, coffee and caffeine-rich soft drinks around eight hours before your bedtime. While alcohol may make you fall asleep quickly, it will often make you wake up earlier too. Try not to drink alcohol within two hours of going to bed.
6. Maintain a cool temperature in your bedroom
Most sleeping experts recommend a bedroom temperature of between 65F and 75F – where in that scale you aim for will depend on what you wear for bed, as well as the bed covers you choose. Always err on the side of cool, however, as a sudden drop in your body temperature will trigger the production of sleep-inducing melatonin in your system.
7. Reduce light levels in your bedroom
If you live near street lights, it may be a good idea to invest in some ‘blackout’ curtains in order to reduce the light in your bedroom as much as possible. However, don’t underestimate the effects of light from the various electronic items around your bed. Light from televisions, digital clocks and music players has the potential to pass through your closed eyelids and delay the production of the melatonin that induces sleep. Put simply, the darker your room is the better chance you have of falling asleep quickly – and staying that way.
A good night’s sleep is essential for your immune system, your ability to concentrate and your general state of mind. By making subtle changes to your sleeping routines, you will give yourself the best chance possible of getting the daily rest your body needs.