How many times do you need to practice something to become an expert? Apparently every day for your whole life isn’t enough. Sleep is surprisngly difficult to master. It’s not nearly as simple as lying down, losing consciousness, and coming to in about eight hours of undisturbed sleep.
Actually it’s a whole lot more complex. So many factors influence sleep – from the frimness of your mattress to the amount you should actually be getting. These are just the tip of the ice berg. Here are the ten things you must know to get the best sleep of your life.
1. Find your optimum
We all need different amounts of sleep, so its worth finding out your optimal ‘sleep number’. Start from seven hours and add an extra half hour to each night. No two people are exactly the same, so saying we all need a magic number of sleep hours is perhaps not the closest to the truth. Some of us function well on seven or less, whereas others need eight or nine. If you can’t get your ‘optimum number’ overnight, look for a pocket in the day where you can take a 20 to 60 minute power nap.
2. Kick your caffeine habit
There is no harm in having a morning coffee or two, but when we start to creep into multiple coffees and stimulants throughout the day, this can send our cortisol levels crazy and really confuse our body’s natural rhythms. Try to limit caffeine after midday, and work towards not NEEDING a coffee to wake up in the morning. Instead, use it as a mid morning treat. Extreme exhaustion early in the morning (that is not related to the amount of sleep you have) is definitely worth checking with your doctor. This isn’t ‘normal,’ even if society tells us it is!
3. Eat earlier, and experiment with what makes you fall asleep quickly
Eating a high fat meal or high fat/high carb combination at dinner can slow down digestion and make it difficult to fall asleep. Some carb rich foods, such as sweet potato, contain more sleep inducing and mood balancing hormones and minerals like tryptophan and potassium. Try opting for lean proteins with veggies and a side of sweet potato rather than creamy pastas or oily dishes. You may find eating more earlier the day, and eating a lighter meal such as a salad and protein, helps digestion and a more comfortable and easy road to falling asleep!
4. Limit alcohol intake at night
While alcohol may make us sleepy, it can really interrupt our natural sleeping patterns and make us feel dehydrated in the morning.
“Deep sleep is when the body restores itself, and alcohol can interfere with this,” explains Dr John Shneerson, head of the sleep centre at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. “As the alcohol starts to wear off, your body can come out of a deep sleep and back into REM sleep, which is much easier to wake from. That’s why you often wake up after just a few hours sleep when you’ve been drinking.”
He explains that in the course of a night you usually have six to seven cycles of REM sleep, which leaves you feeling refreshed. However, if you’ve been drinking you’ll typically have only one to two, meaning you might wake up feeling exhausted.
A glass here and there for balance is perfectly fine, but consider cutting right back to see if you wake up feeling fresher.
5. Limit screen time after 7pm
Blue light emitted from our devices can also meddle with our circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle), confusing our brain as to whether it is night or day. It’s not exactly clear why nighttime light exposure seems to be bad for us. But we do know that exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms. We can all vouch for this. I know the nights I stay up late on my computer working makes me feel exhausted, but wired at the same time. Then I can’t fall asleep. Try setting a cut off time for work/ TV/ screen time (this includes checking social media) and reap the benefits of an easier nod-off.
6. Avoid stress inducing work in the evening
For example, doing your finances! I discovered this one the hard way. Tackle this kind of work early in the day when you are more primed to work at your optimum (less fatigued) as well as problem solve any issue. We tend to be more affected by stress when we are already tired.
7. Make your room dark
This signals to your body and its hormonal rhythms that it is the right time for sleep. If you haven’t got blackout blinds, consider getting them installed, or find a really good sleep mask that cuts out extra light.
8. Create a good ‘sleep hygiene’ routine
Start with lighter meals before bed and turning off your devices early. Then consider a wind down routine: – a cup of chamomile tea or a warm bath or shower. Remember to leave the bedroom for sleep only (well, plus one other!). Avoid turning on the TV, eating or using social media.
9. Don’t sleep with your phone
This can be a hard one, but absolutely worth it! Not only will you not be tempted to check it during the night, but you won’t be able to look at it first thing in the morning. Get an old school alarm clock to set your wake up time.
10. Take a shower or hot bath
Aren’t showers and baths so relaxing? They don’t just relax you though – they also cool your body down afterwards which helps you sleep.
Swiped from Stuff.co.nz