Often described as ‘Nature’s healer’, sleep is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle, but drifting off and getting back to sleep when you wake can sometimes be a real challenge. Here are 12 tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.
“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” Thomas Dekker, English dramatist.
TWELVE TOP TIPS FOR A RESTFUL NIGHT’S SLEEP
- Rise and Shine – Aim to get up at the same time each morning and go to bed when you feel sleepy, at roughly the same time every night.
- Get Outside – As soon as possible after you wake, get outside, and spend time outdoors every day. Sunlight suppresses melatonin, the hormone which helps regulate our sleep/wake cycle, and stimulates the production of serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter which wakes us up and helps to lift our mood.
- Get Moving – Exercise helps us sleep better, although avoid exercising vigorously in the evening as this will wake you up!
- Establish Good Habits – You’ve heard it all before but these things really will give you the best chance of a good night’s sleep: avoid alcohol, steer clear of caffeine in the afternoon and evening, eat earlier rather than later and don’t eat too big a dinner.
- Shut Down – Turn off all screens including your laptop, I-pad, smartphone and TV at least 30 minutes before going to bed, preferably an hour or more. The blue light emitted from screens limits our production of melatonin, the hormone we need to get to sleep.
- Wind Down – Make the hour before you go to bed a relaxed, soothing one. Read, do a puzzle, listen to quiet music, do breathing exercises or some gentle yoga.
- Warm Up – You’ll find it easier to sleep if you’re warm, but not too hot so don’t have more bedclothes on than you need. It’s best not to have a bath or shower just before going to bed. An hour or so before is ideal.
- Get Comfortable – Make sure your bedroom is as quiet and as dark as possible. You want it to be a peaceful sanctuary so avoid having stressors in your room, such as your computer or unfinished work.
- Accept – Accept that you will wake at night; everyone does, we just don’t remember waking if we fall back to sleep within a couple of minutes. Remember: It’s not the waking that’s the problem, it’s the going back to sleep so try not to get wound up. Putting your clock out of sight (and out of reach) will help.
- Relax – If you wake at night, try abdominal breathing, progressive relaxation or mindful meditation. You’ll find instructions on how to practise these techniques online.
- Get Up – If you’re still tossing and turning after 20 minutes or so, get out of bed and do something you find relaxing. Take some deep breaths or write down anything that’s worrying you. Keep the lights dimmed, don’t drink or eat or tackle any projects; just sit and relax. Go back to bed after 15 minutes or so and give the relaxation techniques another go.
- Cat-Nap – What’s the story with napping? As long as you wake before 2.30pm or so, a nap shouldn’t impact on your ability to sleep that night. Any later in the day, though, and it probably will.
With thanks to Dr. Alex Bartle from The Sleep Well Clinic www.sleepwellclinic.co.nz