A good night’s sleep is essential for your overall health and well-being. In addition to the aesthetic benefits, regular and satisfying sleep is also very important for brain health. Sleep helps to consolidate the information we absorb and the emotions that we feel each day, making sure that we wake up refreshed and ready for the input from the new day. Chronic insomnia can lead to forgetfulness, moodiness, poor physical health, and stress, which can lower your life satisfaction.
There is a clear solution, if not an immediately easy one – practicing good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is the technical term for good sleeping habits, which include a set sleep routine, a suitable sleeping area, and a few tweaks to your daily habits.
Ways to Improve your Sleeping Routine
The first step in achieving better sleep is to establish a strict, realistic sleep routine. Most adults need around 8-9 hours a night, although this varies between individuals.
- Get a good alarm clock
Being torn from sleep by a blaring alarm never makes for a good morning wakeup call. Set your alarm to an upbeat, calm wakeup tone for a pleasant transition from sleep to wakefulness, and avoid the early morning grump that comes from hunting down an irritating alarm. You can go one better and invest in a lightbox alarm clock that wakes you up with gentle sunrise rays of light, and prepares you for bed with a simulated sunset. Waking up with light helps your body to regulate the sleep hormone melatonin – darkness stimulates its production, helping you fall asleep, and light halts the production, waking you up.
- Set a bedtime and waking-up time, and stick to it
Often we wake up early during the week for work, remain sleep deprived and reliant on coffee to get through the day, and then “binge sleep” late on weekends in an attempt to catch up on all the lost hours. In fact, this does nothing to help with sleep deprivation – it merely makes it worse. By getting around 8 hours of sleep every night, and sticking to the same waking and bedtime hours every day (even on weekends!) you will be able to reap the full benefits of good sleep.
Create a sleep-friendly bedroom
Your bedroom should be conducive to sleep – dark, quiet, and cool. Your body temperature reaches its lowest around 2/3am, so make sure that you have enough blankets and choose cotton sleepwear if possible. Cotton is a great sleepwear fabric as it wicks sweat away from your skin, keeping you dry and warm while you sleep. Finally, no TV in the bedroom! It can interfere with your sleep patterns, and with your relationships.
Tweaking a few things that you do daily can enhance your sleep quality, and general wellbeing.
- Cut down on caffeine
A moderate amount of coffee daily can be beneficial for your health, but be sure that you limit yourself to no more than 4 cups per day. Also, make sure that you refrain from having any caffeine after 4 pm, so that the stimulant doesn’t keep you awake past bedtime.
- Get lost of exposure to sunlight
As mentioned previously, sunlight inhibits the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making you feel more awake during the day. Fresh air, sunlight, and exercise all help with sleeping better at night.
It takes several weeks to solidify a new habit (usually 21 days), so stick with the changes you make, and you will see gradual results. Better sleep = better health, starting today.