Improve Your Sleep with These Three Tips
Better sleep means better days!
Bed times can feel a little stressful these days. Sleeping with such uncertainty isn’t for everyone. To be our best and feel motivated, not just to get through the day but to make the most of each day, sleep is crucial. Just as crucial as what we eat and how much we exercise. Our slumber is often the first thing to go awry when life gets stressful. These three tips will help you beat the bedtime blues and improve your sleep for better days.
Optimal Sleep Times
Most of us need somewhere between 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night. Exactly how much you need depends on a number of variables that change depending on your day. For example if you’ve had a particularly stressful day, or sweated through a hard workout, your usual 7 hours of slumber might not cut it. Instead, because of the extra repair work needed on muscles or consolidating the emotions, your body call for as much as another hour or two between the sheets.
Your age and gender also impact how much sleep you need. As you get older, you need less. If you’re over 65, you could be fine and maintain great health with just 6 hours a night. Kids need more sleep than adults and their sleep cycles change as they grow. Babies don’t have distinct sleep stages like adults. However, whatever your age, if you don’t get enough shut eye, you can expect your health to deteriorate and your life to shorten. It really is that important.
Tip #1 – Increase your exposure to natural light
Our circadian rhythm is one of the greatest influences of our sleep patterns. It can impact how well we sleep, when we feel sleepy and the times we wake up. Also known as a biological clock, our circadian rhythm is just one of our internal ‘clocks’ that support our physical, mental and behavioral cycles. It takes some of its ‘settings’ or cues from some of our internal functions such as digesting food and also external stimulus like temperature and light. Of all of these influences, light, or more specifically, daylight, has the biggest impact. When we get our doses of daylight, or blue light if we’re in a part of the world where light might be lacking at certain times of the year, further influence this cycle.
Exposing ourselves to bright natural light when we wake up, or early on in our day, is one of the best things we can do to keep our circadian rhythm cycling towards sleepy evenings. Taking a further precaution to limit your exposure to blue lights in the evening with a red filter can further enhance your chance of a restful night of slumber.
Tip #2 – Consistency is key
Consistent sleep and wake times further reinforce our circadian patterns. Irregular sleep patterns often lead to restless nights or have us waking when our bodies haven’t had the right amount of sleep needed to function at full throttle the next day.
Even sleeping in a couple of days a week because you don’t have to be up for a particular event can throw your cycle into chaos and leave you with dark circles under your eyes for a few days while you try to find your rhythm again. This is partly due to the disruption to your melatonin levels which start out low in the morning and rise as you get closer to the end of the day.
Tip #3 – Bedtime mind-dumps
If thoughts about the current situation are swirling around your head when you head to bed – or other worries – it can be almost impossible to get to sleep. Try to avoid watching the news before bed – it can be partially responsible for heightening your anxiety and making it difficult to get to sleep and stay there. Writing down worries before bed has also been shown to help people clock more quality time in dreamland. Not only does it help you fall asleep faster, it can also improve the quality of your sleep with fewer disruptions and more complete cycles through all of the sleep stages.
Both the content and quality of your writing is important for getting the most from this tip for better sleep. Whether it is a to do list of tasks that are troubling you, a page in your journal covering what your worries are and how you might manage them, or a list of all the things you feel grateful for from your day, aim to be specific, detailed and extensive.
Looking after ourselves is important. Taking care that we get enough sleep has knock-on benefits that not only boost our energy and mood through our days, but also improve our immune system function, keeps our appetite in check and boosts mental clarity. Keeping to a regular bed time and wake time, maximizing our exposure to natural light, and emptying our minds before we slip between the sheets are three of the most powerful things we can do to improve our slumber.