Sleep is one of the pillars of health and is as essential to our bodies as clean air, nutritional food, exercise and water.
Good quality sleep can decrease heart disease, stoke risk, obesity, depression and improve overall wellbeing, brain function and immunity.
We all need a good nights sleep. Image courtesy of Pixabay
The first step to encourage good quality sleep is to have a good bedtime routine. It works by establishing a sleep-wake cycle within the body that creates melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy.
Having a warm shower, reading a book and then turning off the light at roughly the same time every day and waking at the same time will reinforce your body’s cycle.
This can be difficult on weekends and holidays! The research suggests that limiting changes by 1 - 1 1/2 hours on weekends, where possible, will not dramatically change the overall sleep-wake cycle.
During the day...
A good sleep at night starts with what you do during the day!
Limit daytime naps Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep, however a short 30 minute “Nanna nap” may replenish your energy. Avoiding naps late in the day is key to a good nights sleep.
Watch what you eat and drink Different food and drink can have a stimulating effect and effect your ability to sleep.
Caffeine, a stimulant, can take hours to wear off and working out how this effects your body can mean you can still enjoy a cup without compromising sleep.
How sensitive are you to coffee? Image courtesy of Pixabay
Alcohol may initially make you sleepy but can affect the quality and ability to stay asleep.
Try to avoid being hungry or too full at bed. Try not to have heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime.
Exercise Regular physical activity is good for you and also promotes sleep. Try to keep rigorous activity for the daytime and too close to bedtime.
Ready, set, sleep!
Create a room ideal for sleeping Artificial, natural and screen light make it challenging to fall asleep as the blue screen light suppresses melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.
Having a dark, cool and quiet room may promote better sleep by cueing the body to increase melatonin production.
Consider using room-darkening shades, eye masks or a fan to help create an comfortable environment.
Music Recent studies have shown that listening to soothing music with a slow rhythm of 60 to 80 beats per minute, can help lull you to sleep.
Calming exercises Doing calming activities before bedtime, such as using progressive relaxation techniques, will promote better sleep.
To start, tense the muscles in your toes for 5 seconds, hold and then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat twice. Progressively work your way up the body to your neck and head.
Warm bath before bed or shower Taking a warm bath or shower before bed and stepping into cool air causes your body temperature to drop quickly. This drop slows your metabolism faster and will prepare your body for sleep.