Tip 1: Pay attention to your body’s inbuilt wake/sleep cycle
Your circadian rhythm governs your waking and sleeping cycle – and you should sync with it. Paying attention to your natural circadian rhythm is one of the most important ways to ensure a good night’s sleep. A regular wake/sleep cycle allows you to wake up refreshed and mentally alert – ready to tackle the challenges of a new day. Even if you get the same number of hours of sleep, but don’t have a regular sleep schedule you are not going to have the same quality sleep experience. Deviating from that schedule, even if it is by only one or two hours can limit the benefits of a sound sleep.
Slumber Search’s analysts advise getting to sleep and wake up at the same time each night and day. This helps your body to set its internal clock – and leads to a better quality of sleep. Make sure that you diarize a bedtime that matches your level of tiredness, this avoids you from struggling to fall asleep. You’ll know when your body and mind have had sufficient rest due to the fact that you won’t need an alarm clock – you’ll wake up naturally. If you can’t wake up without an alarm clock then adjust your bedtime to allow for an extra hour or two – you may need more sleep.
Wake up at the same time each day. This includes weekends and days off. If your weekend sleep schedule deviates from your normal daily schedule you’ll end up feeling like you are jetlagged. Late nights may call for a daytime nap in order to avoid the lure of sleeping in. Napping will allow you to make up for your sleep deficit without disturbing your circadian rhythm.
However, you need to control your napping habits. Napping is a great way to catch up on sleep, however, if you struggle to fall asleep or wake up during the course of the night there is the possibility that napping might worsen the problems. Keep naps down to between 15 and 20 minutes – and nap in the early hours of the afternoon.
Nutrition is also an important contributing factor to a good night’s sleep. Start your day with a healthy and nutritious breakfast. A great breakfast alerts your body to the fact that the day has started. Ignoring breakfast can have detrimental effects on your blood sugar levels which in turn can lead to listlessness and a lack of energy, and added levels of stress, all of which will affect your sleep patterns.
You may feel drowsy after dinner, but work your way through that. Ignore the couch option and get up to undertake a task that is mildly stimulating. You can wash dishes, fold clothes, iron, or call a friend. Surrendering to drowsiness may cause you to wake up at night and struggle to fall asleep again.
Tip 2: The Importance of Light Exposure
The body’s levels of melatonin are influenced by exposure to light. Melatonin helps to regulate our waking and sleeping cycle. When it is dark our brains secrete more melatonin – and sleep makes us feel sleepy. When it’s light our melatonin levels drop and we become more alert. The light that we are exposed to due to modern light sources adversely affects our melatonin levels and disrupts our circadian rhythm. Here are some ideas on how to control light exposure in order to enjoy a better night’s sleep.
During daylight hours
The bright sunlight of the early morning hours is an ideal opportunity to enjoy the sunshine. Try and get out as soon after you wake up as possible. Enjoy your first cup of coffee outside or eat your breakfast bathed in the sunlight from an open window. Direct sunlight helps you to wake up and face the day.
Spend as many hours outside as possible during the daylight hours. Work breaks should be enjoyed in the sunshine, where possible exercise outdoors, or take your furry friend for a walk during daylight hours.
Allow natural light to flood your home if possible. Blinds and curtains should be left open during daylight hours. When working at home make sure that your desk is bathed in sunlight.
For those who are subject to long winter nights, it may be beneficial to invest in a light therapy box. This device simulates sunshine and can supplement the naturally occurring during shorter days.
Night Time Considerations
Avoid the use of electronic devices in the evening. The blue light emitted by these devices (TV, laptops, or tablets) has been singled out as contributing to sleep disturbances. The sleep impact of these sorts of devices can be reduced by using those with smaller screens, adjusting brightness levels, or using software like f.lux.
Watching television late at night can be extremely detrimental to getting a good night’s sleep. The light from TVs suppresses the natural secretion of melatonin, in addition, the content of many television programs is stimulating, rather than relaxing. Audiobooks are a great alternative.
Backlit devices are especially disruptive to our sleep patterns, much more so than e-book readers that lack an internal light source.
Ensure that your room is as dark as possible. Use heavy ‘hotel-style’ curtains or shades or invest in a sleep mask. Another strategy is to cover up electronics that emit light.
Try to avoid using bright lights if you wake up during the course of the night. use a small torch instead, or install a low output night light. These can also be placed in bathrooms or the hall. This will enable you to fall back to sleep more easily.
Tip 3: The importance of daylight exercise
Those who exercise on a regular basis tend to enjoy a better quality of sleep at night and feel less drowsy during the day. Regular exercise also can help combat insomnia, and make sleep apnea less of a problem. Reducing the impact of insomnia and sleep apnea can allow you to enjoy a better night of restorative, deep sleep by allowing your body to easily progress through the various stages of sleep.
The more vigorous your exercise the more restful your sleep will be – and the benefits from unwinding and having a deep sleep will be more powerful. However, even light exercise (such as walking for 10 minutes) can lead to a better quality of sleep.
The benefits of exercise may take several months to manifest, however, be diligent and patient and your sleep-promoting efforts will be rewarded.
Exercise supercharges your metabolism and elevates body temperature. It also stimulates the production of certain hormones, for example, cortisol. Exercise in the morning and afternoon is extremely beneficial to sleep patterns but avoid exercise just prior to your scheduled sleep time – that can interfere with the process of falling asleep and enjoying a restorative, uninterrupted night’s rest.
Timing is everything
Try to schedule your vigorous or light exercise for a time slot that is at least three hours before bedtime. If you continued to experience sleep problems schedule that workout for an even earlier time. Many people have reported that low-impact exercises such as yoga and even stretching prior to bedtime can help you enjoy a great night’s sleep.