Many people are unaware of how crucial it is to get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, sleep is essential for physical and mental health. While you sleep, your mind and body are busy replenishing cells, restoring energy and rebuilding tissue. Without sleep, you wouldn’t have enough energy to accomplish basic bodily functions, much less get your forty-hour work week in.
Getting too little sleep can increase stress, disturb mood, and impair ability to concentrate. Furthermore, poor sleep can also have long-term health impact such as heightened risk factor for diabetes, high blood pressure, decreased immune function, major depression, obesity etc. Both the Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine—two of the most prestigious organizations in the complex field of sleep research—recommend at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Naturally, adults, teenagers, kids and babies require different amount of sleep. Securing better sleep for kids and babies is a priority for every parent. Good sleep will help your kids grow, learn, and stay safe. However, teenagers also have to be helped to sleep better. Research shows that most teenagers need more sleep than adults, since they are at an important stage of their growth and development. Ultimately, adults also need a good night’s sleep in order to function at their best.
Researchers have identified a variety of habits that you can practice—known as “sleep hygiene”—that can help you maximize the hours spent sleeping. In this article we are revisiting the four most essential tips to help you sleep better.
1. Make your bedroom a dreamy place
You start and end your day in your bedroom. The purpose of this room is to serve you and prepare you for the crazy world next morning. Creating a space that encourages calmness, physical intimacy and inviting sleep environment is vital to your good health and happiness.
The perfect bed, mattress, sheets and pillows– We all feel comfortable on different types of mattresses and on different types of pillows. It is personal and never wrong if it fits your body and gives you a good night’s sleep. Since you can develop health issues if you do not get the proper support while you sleep, make sure you invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows. Choose sheets and pillowcases that feel good on your skin. Cotton is usually the best fabric since it provides the best balance between comfort and value. Cotton sheets are soft and absorb moisture, allowing the body to stay warm in cold weather and cool in warm weather.
The right temperature– Science says that our internal temperature is usually at its highest in the early afternoon and lowest around 5 a.m. When we fall asleep, our bodies naturally cool off. Helping keep your body to get to that lower temperature faster can encourage deeper and better sleep. Keep the temperature comfortably cool—between 60 and 75°F. Another important thing is to keep your room well ventilated since bedroom air quality affects your sleep.
Electronics and lights– Keep computer, phone, TV, and tablet out of your bedroom. Why? First of all, as we already said, your bedroom must be your Zen place. Second, blue/white light is a stimulant that actually boosts attention and reaction times. These are not benefits that you want as you are falling sleep. Total darkness at bedtime is best for sleep. However, if you must have a source of light, try opening the window blinds or, if you must have an artificial source of light, the best color for night lights is red or orange.
2. Ease the transition from wake time to sleep time with a soothing pre-sleep routine
Before bedtime, engage in relaxing activities. Take a warm bath or shower (this is especially recommended for babies), read a book, watch television, listen to music that relaxes you or practice meditation. All these activities ease your mind and make you less tense. An hour or so before bedtime do your best to avoid stressful, stimulating activities. For example, working or discussing emotional issues makes you more stressful, thus affects your sleeping. Bottom line, you don`t want to end up associating the bed with distracting activities that could make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
3. Keep regular sleeping hours
Having a regular sleep schedule helps to ensure better quality and consistent sleep. Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day, even on weekends and vacations. This programs the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine (ever happened to you to wake up just before your alarm goes off?). Keeping regular sleeping routine is important especially for babies and kids. However, establishing sleeping bedtime routine for adults (even though few manage to stick to it) is also beneficial. Everybody needs a good night rest! Most important thing is to lower your expectations and don`t pressure yourself. Your routine must depend on what works for you best. This way it is a lot easier to stick to it.
4. Healthy eating and exercising
Healthy eating is also important for quality sleep. It is widely known that you should avoid late-night eating. However, sleep experts recommend that some types of food like bananas, honey, almonds, oats and other can actually help you sleep better. On the other hand, keep away from consuming spicy and fatty food, cheese, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep. Coffee for example stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night. Alcohol (even though a glass of wine or any drink of your choice helps you nod off) is known to cause or increase the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring and disrupted sleep patterns. It also alters nighttime melatonin production.
In terms of exercising, it is recommended to exercise at least three hours before bedtime, and the best time is usually late afternoon. Body temperatures rise during exercise and take as long as 6 hours to begin to drop. Since cooler body temperatures are associated with sleep onset, it is important to allow the body time to cool off before sleep.