How did you sleep last night? And how did you feel when you woke this morning? If the answer to either question is not great there’s a good chance that you have some bad sleep habits to break. Read on to find out more…
Why a good sleep is so important
Besides feeling a lot happier, healthier and more emotionally equipped for whatever life throws at us, there are many other benefits to getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep keeps us alert and ready for action. Sleep re-charges our minds and bodies so that we can be refreshed, energised and repaired. Without a good night’s sleep, our bodies simply cannot function at their best, and the results are plain to see- in your skin, you hair and your mood.
So a good sleep is important. And there are ways that you can ensure you get it.
Break the habits
Bad habits tend to pop up over time, and often unintentionally. Often we don’t know we’re doing things that are hampering our chances of a good sleep, and sometimes we know only too well! The trick is to know how to break them. A great way to do this is to replace your bad habits with good ones. So learn ways to improve your sleep and intentionally make them habit. Here are some to try.
Create a bedtime routine
Just as we do for babies and children. Human beings by nature respond well to routine, and at bedtime this is more important than ever. Create sleep cues that allow your body to recognise that it is time to wind down for sleep.
It’s a good idea to turn off the screen (your phone, the computer and the TV) at least an hour before you intend to sleep. The lights from the screens interfere with the body’s ability to create melatonin, the hormone essential for sleep. If you keep your routine dimly lit and screen free, you’re likely to find sleep easier to achieve. Instead, take up some calmer, more relaxing activities such as reading, meditation or listening to music.
Avoid eating and drinking at least one hour before bed and don’t exercise right before you intend to wind down either.
You probably already avoid coffee late in the day, but don’t forget caffeine can be found elsewhere too. Limit your intake throughout the day, and remember that it can take 8-14 hours for it to pass through your system completely. So just one cup of coffee in the morning might be all you need for better sleep.
Watch the stress
If you’re wound up, anxious and feeling stressed, your body is not going to be able to relax enough for sleep. Your mind needs to be able to switch off in order for your body to relax enough and if you’re stressed, you’re going to find that hard. The stress hormone cortisol should really be at it lowest at the end of the day, so that the feel-good serotonin is able to take over before sleep. If cortisol is still high at the end of the day due to stress, sleep is not going to come easily. Concentrate on your breathing, meditate and even write down your stresses at the end of the day- and leave them outside the bedroom. Take steps to eliminate stress at bedtime, and you’re more likely to wake up refreshed and ready to deal with it all a lot better in the morning.
Modify your diet
We all know that a healthy diet is key to so many health benefits, and sleep is just one of them. We also know that processed foods, alcohol and sugar are all big factors in insomnia and sleeping problems. But what do we do if we’ve limited those foods and sleep is still elusive? Well, there are some foods that are actually known to help you sleep. Why not try:
combined with complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat toast- the combination is known to release insulin which activates the movement of tryptophan in the body. Tryptophan converts to serotonin and melatonin- both essential hormones for sleep. Just make sure you don’t eat too late in the day, otherwise your body will waste energy digesting rather than repairing!
Make sleep a priority
Too often we tend to take for granted that we will sleep when we get to bed, and if we have a bad night we brush it aside and get on with the day regardless. But if you make sleep a priority in your life, you might find it starts to improve.
Don’t scrimp on your bedding, or your bedroom. Make it comfortable and pleasant to sleep in. If you have trouble sleeping, get up and go into another room to wind down for a while so that your body is able to associate your bedroom (and your bed) to sleep, rather than to insomnia.
If you have a bad night, aim to turn in a little earlier the next night to try and recover from the lost sleep. Re-arrange your morning a little so that your schedule is a little less hectic. Place importance on your sleep!