What You’re Doing (or Not Doing) That’s Preventing a Good Night’s Rest
We all know that to be healthy, we have to exercise and eat right. But have we forgotten about sleep?
Just as our bodies need food and water, they need sleep to function optimally. It is during sleep when our brains forge new connections and our bodies heal. And yet, we deprive ourselves of one of the world’s greatest and most peaceful pleasures.
With a busy work schedules, early-rising children and a never ending to-do list, we know it’s tough to get 8 hours of solid sleep. But fortunately for us, following healthy sleep habits that improve the quality of sleep can make all the difference! So even if you don’t manage to hit your 8 hours, you’ll feel much more rested and rejuvenated the next morning.
I’m sure you already know the obvious ones – don’t drink coffee too late in the day, avoid long afternoon naps, ensure your bed is nice and comfy… but here are some other things you might be doing that are making sleep your enemy, instead of your friend.
You’re not getting enough physical activity
Being physically active and expending energy during the day helps to tire the body out, making for better rest during the night.
But studies have shown that you don’t actually have to exercise to the point of exhaustion – just a couple of minutes of physical activity during the day will do the trick.
In many cases, stress is the culprit for insomnia, and since we all know that exercise is an amazing remedy for stress and anxiety, getting the body moving could also promote better sleep in this way.
Remember though, that exercise should be done at least three to four hours before bedtime. Exercising raises your body temperature, heart rate and adrenalin levels, so vigorous exercise too close to bedtime could actually interfere with your sleep.
You’re drinking alcohol to help you sleep
Drink a glass of red, feel nice and relaxed. Feel so relaxed that you happily pour yourself another. And then another, just to get you warm, fuzzy, sleepy and ready for bed.
Wake up the next morning... and feel like crap.
Drinking increases the production of adenosine, a sleep-inducing chemical in the brain, which makes you sleepy initially. But the adenosine level drops quickly soon after, and the alcohol starts to act as a stimulate a few hours you’re your sleep, making you more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.
You’re letting blue light into your eyes
The screens of your devices emit a large amount of blue light, which is fine during daytime. But when you use your devices close to bedtime, the blue light affects your circadian rhythm, confusing your brain into thinking it’s still bright outside.
Try powering down your devices at least an hour before bed, and start to dim your lights after dinner.
If you really have to be on your devices, download apps like f.lux that change the colour of your computer screen to resemble the current time of day. This can help your body recognise that bedtime is approaching.
You’re bringing your monkey mind to bed
If you find yourself unable to sleep because your brain is whirring, it may be that you haven’t taken the time to process the events of your day.
Give yourself 10 minutes or so to create your to-do list for the next day, maybe even scheduling your day if that’s something you tend to have on your mind before drifting off.
Another good habit to keep is to do a thorough mental download of everything in your head just before crawling into bed. Keep a journal by your bedside and literally write down those racing thoughts to clear your mind of mental clutter.
Your room isn’t pitch dark
Just like the screens of your laptop and phone, LEDs, standby lights from electronics and other sources of light as small as an ant can mess with your circadian rhythm.
Stick tape over that blinking green light on your air-conditioning unit and cover up any lights on your cable box, digital clocks and devices in the bedroom to make the room as dark as possible.
It may also be worth investing in blockout blinds or eye masks for a cheaper option. Many of us make the mistake of thinking that once our eyes are closed, it’s dark behind the eyelids. What we don’t realise is that 20% of light still reaches our retinas even when our eyes are closed!
You’re sleeping too early
Yup, there is such a thing as sleeping too early.
When you try to sleep before you’re truly tired, you end up tossing and turning for 30 minutes, which goes on to become an hour. You then tell yourself not to think about sleep... and the next thing you know, it is 4am and your whole head is consumed by thoughts of how annoying it is that you can’t sleep.
Battling with sleep is the worst mistake you can make. If you’ve been laying in bed for 20 minutes and sleep hasn’t come to you, continuing to lay there will only stress you out more.
Get out of bed, go to another room and do something else until you feel sleepy. Just remember not to engage yourself in activities that are too exciting – playing video games or reading a mystery novel.
Do something quiet and restful which doesn’t involve bright light, such as knitting, drawing or stretching.
Your sleep schedule is all over the place
Studies have shown that irregular sleep patterns can affect your melatonin levels and circadian rhythm. Staying up and sleeping in can alter your body’s internal clock, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep on following nights.
But if you establish a routine and go to bed and get up at roughly (doesn’t have to be exactly) the same time daily, you set your body clock to expect sleep during a certain window night after night, and you’ll find yourself falling asleep much quicker.
How about trying some herbs?
Apart from changing your sleep habits, there are also quite a few natural supplements and herbs you can try that help to relax the body and induce sleepiness.
- Magnesium: calms nerves and relaxes muscles
- Valerian root: a mild sedative that helps to calm your nervous system by lowering the anxiety response
- Chamomile tea: a very mild natural sedative which soothes and calms
- Passion flower: with its anti-anxiety effects, it helps to calm the brain and lessen racing thoughts during bedtime
Alternatively, try Ora's Profound Sleep powder which is a powerful blend of sleep-inducing ingredients - magnesium glycinate (one of the most absorbable forms of magnesium), lemon balm, passionflower, Schisandra, Ziziphus and chamomile. Just what you need to wind down for bed.