Getting a proper night’s sleep is one of the best ways to maintain good health, enjoy increased energy, and improve your overall physical as well as psychological well-being. While we all have the occasional night where we just can’t seem to get any rest, losing sleep can have serious health consequences. Indeed, long-term sleep deprivation can lead to medical problems such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease.
To help you with your sleep, here are 10 tips that will improve your chances of falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting the rest that your body and mind both need.
Take Time to Relax
Research shows that relaxation keeps your heart healthier, cuts stress, reduces muscle tension, improves brain function and memory, and helps you avoid depression, anxiety, and obesity. It boosts your immune system and helps alleviate the symptoms of many medical and psychological disorders.
So we know that relaxing is important, but that doesn’t mean just blobbing out in front of the TV. Proper relaxation, the kind that will help you sleep better, is something you need to be intentional about. Here are just a few easy relaxation methods that you can do almost anywhere:
Deep breathing- Take slow, deep breaths through the nose, and exhale gradually through the mouth to let the whole body relax a little more with each breath.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation - Alternately tense, and then release groups of muscles throughout the body. Start with your facial muscles then move on to other muscle groups—neck, shoulders, arms, chest, stomach, legs, and feet for full-body relaxation.
Meditation - This involves resting in a comfortable position without distractions. Focus your attention on only one thing. This can be a word or phrase, your breathing, a sound, or an image. Re-focus your attention each time you become distracted.
Visualization - Use your imagination to create a visual image of a relaxing, soothing, or healing place. Imagine every part of this image—sight, sound, taste, motion, and texture—to make it as real as possible. You may try using a virtual reality headset to help you with this one.
Get Into a Routine
The Covid pandemic has affected just about every area of our lives, and it has made having a set routine more difficult, but it’s important than ever to have a regular sleep routine. Try to establish a sleep routine that works for you with set times for waking up in the morning and for going to bed at night.
Sleep routines are activities that you perform before going to bed each night, and these activities prepare you for rest. They include things like getting into your pyjamas, brushing your teeth (or taking them out!), getting a glass of water, taking any nightly medications, or reading. Your sleep routine starts long before you actually go to bed, but beginning the routine every night at the same time will help you get into bed on time and sleep peacefully.
Using technology before bed can make it difficult to sleep because the blue light from screens such as TV, tablets, smartphones, or laptops disrupts the release of melatonin in your body. To avoid falling into that trap, establish an electronics curfew, a time in the evening when all TVs, phones, and computers need to be turned off. This should be at least one to two hours before bed time. If you enjoy reading before bed, opt for printed copies of books, newspapers, and magazine rather than reading on an electronic device.
Increase Natural Light Exposure During the Day
To be our best selves, we need to have a healthy daily cycle of light and dark, a well-defined difference between night and day. This is necessary to regulate our circadian rhythms and daily hormone cycles. Sadly, most of us spend 90% of our waking hours inside in artificial light, and artificial light produces only a tiny percentage of the amount of light generated by natural light. Exposure to bright natural light in the mornings triggers a biological response in our bodies that has the following results:
- Stimulates production of serotonin, which lifts our moods
- Increases production of cortisol, which boosts our energy levels
- Releases alpha-amylase, an important digestive enzyme
- Aids in the expression of melatonin, which is necessary to have a healthy evening hormone cycle.
With all these benefits of natural light, you might think that you need to work outside to get a good night’s sleep, but the body can experience all of these health benefits with exposure to sunlight for as little as 20 minutes per day.
Avoid Clock Watching
A good way to improve your sleep is to avoid clock watching in the night. One of the main barriers to sound sleep is increased arousal. Increased arousal can come from tension, stress, anxiety, or anger, but it can also come from your brain being too busy. This busyness can be increased if you’re minding the clock all night.
Humans are hard wired to monitor the time. This isn’t a bad thing during the day if it helps you mind what you’re doing and keeps you on schedule, but it can be a detriment to sound sleep if you do it at night. If you wake in the night and immediately check the clock, you’re stimulating your brain unnecessarily by thinking about what you need to do, how much longer you have to sleep, apprehension about some unfinished task you need to complete, or any number of other petty worries that will prove detrimental to your sleep.
There’s an Ethiopian legend that a goat herder name Kaldi observed that when his goats ate the berries of a certain bush, they became so energetic that they didn’t want to sleep at night. He reported this to a monk at the local monastery who experimented by using them to make a drink. The monk found that the drink helped him to stay alert during the day, and that’s when man started drinking coffee.
While having a morning cup or two will help you to wake up and feel alert, you shouldn’t consume caffeine too late in the day as it will keep you awake at night or make your sleep less productive. It’s best to limit your caffeine intake to the morning and early afternoon hours. A good rule of thumb is to determine not to drink coffee after 4 P.M. each day.
Ah, naps! Who doesn’t love a nice cosy nap, especially after a big meal or a workout? And what harm am I doing if I just climb into my favourite easy chair and close my eyes for a few minutes? Certainly, there’s no harm in taking a nap to refresh yourself, and indeed, a regular nap can help to sharpen brain activity. However, too many naps during the day and naps that are longer that 20 or 30 minutes can prevent you from falling asleep and staying asleep at night. Napping can affect individuals differently, so if you take a daily nap and you still sleep well, you don’t need to eliminate the naps, but for most of us, naps need to be short and sweet.
Your Sleep is Affected by What You Eat
There are certain foods that can help or hinder your ability to get a good night’s sleep:
- Almonds contain protein, fat, and fiber that will stabilize your blood sugar. The nuts also contain tryptophan and magnesium, which help to naturally lower the stress hormone cortisol.
- Tart cherries contain melatonin, a key to improving overall sleep patterns. Melatonin helps the body maintain a regular sleep cycle, so that it knows when it's time for bed and when it's time to wake up.
- A cup of herbal or decaffeinated tea can help you to sleep. Chamomile tea has high levels of the antioxidant apigenin, which has been found to promote relaxation.
- Eggs contain tryptophan, vitamin B6, melatonin, and blood sugar balancing protein. These chemicals have proven to promote sound sleep.
- Pistachio nuts have vitamin B7, healthy fat, and protein, which can all help you to sleep better.
- Peanut butter is another great source of healthy fats, protein, and tryptophan.
- Salmon and other fatty fish contain high levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which research has shown to help you sleep better.
- Greek yoghurt is high in protein and contains significant amounts of tryptophan. If you like to eat a dish of ice cream after dinner, try Greek yoghurt instead and you’ll have a better night’s sleep.
- You may have heard about the benefits of dark chocolate. This delicious treat contains magnesium and serotonin, which are both essential for relaxation.
- White rice has a high glycaemic index which can lead to you falling asleep faster.
While all of these foods can help improve the quality of your sleep, here’s a list of some foods to avoid late at night:
- We’ve already mentioned coffee in this article, so just know that it’s the first thing on this list to avoid.
- Chicken contains an amino acid known as tyrosine, which promotes brain activity just when you need your brain to settle down, so it’s best to avoid it just before bedtime.
- Pizza can cause sleep problems for you if you eat it too close to bedtime. The acidic nature of the sauce and cheese can cause night time heartburn.
- Ice cream contains a lot of sugar which should be avoided before bed. As mentioned above, it’s better to substitute Greek yogurt for a bedtime snack.
- Pasta eaten late in the evening can cause a spike in your blood sugar which in turn can keep you awake. The culprit in the pasta is the level of carbohydrates. If you use whole grain pasta though, they have complex carbs which won’t spike your blood sugar.
- Spicy foods with hot peppers can get your blood flowing and increase your body temperature, which is the opposite of where it needs to go for a good night’s sleep.
For better sleep, consider taking melatonin as a dietary supplement. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in your brain and is primarily responsible for regulating your body’s circadian rhythm to manage your natural sleep cycle. In addition to helping you sleep, is has powerful effects on other aspects of your health. Melatonin is also involved in managing immune function, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. It also acts as an antioxidant and may improve eye health, reduce symptoms of seasonal depression, and even provide relief from acid reflux.
Drinking alcohol at night can negatively affect your sleep and hormones. It’s known to cause or increase the symptoms of sleep apnea and snoring, and can disrupt your sleep patterns. It also reduces the production of melatonin.
In addition to these 10 recommendations for improving your sleep, take a look at your bed. Is the mattress still good, are the bed linens soft and clean? Is your bedroom inviting? Improving the environment in your bedroom can do wonders for your sleep, and here are some suggestions for how to accomplish that.
- Quiet-If your bedroom is near a highway or on a busy street, the traffic noise can interfere with your sleep. While you may not be able to eliminate such noises, you can replace them with more soothing sounds like those produced by a white noise machine.
- Temperature-It can be very hard to get to sleep if it’s too warm in your bedroom. If you can, try to keep the temperature around 21°C.
- Light-people sleep better in a darker room. Try to eliminate as much light as possible in your bedroom by using black out curtains, and dim any lights from alarm clocks, radios, or any other source.
- Your bed linens-Dressing your bed in smooth all cotton sheets with a high thread count will help you sleep. Wash your bed linens weekly in hot water and a great smelling detergent and add a few fluffy pillows. A couple of soft blankets and a down comforter will keep you luxuriously snuggled in warmth on the coldest nights.
- Your mattress-last but certainly not least is your mattress. You need a mattress that’s not too hard, not too soft, but just right. Sine everyone has different preferences for mattress firmness, you need to do some research and find the best mattress for your body type, your weight, the other creatures that might be sharing your bed like partners, children, or pets. A great place to start looking for a new mattress is Carters Bed City.
Here at Carters Bed City, we pride ourselves on the vast selection of bedding that we offer, along with our outstanding customer service. Our highly trained staff can provide you with the right advice and information so that you can make the most of your mattress purchase. Because of the special relationships we have with our suppliers, we are able to source furniture from all over the globe, as well as products that are manufactured locally, and we can offer the lowest prices on all of the products we sell. In fact, we have a low price guarantee that states that we will match or beat any competitors price on identical products. We have 2 large showrooms full of the most stylish, practical, and high quality furniture and bedding, and our stores are open seven days a week to serve you.
If you’d like more information about the products and services we offer, visit our website or call us at 01562 540862 (Carters Furniture Store) or 01562 66396 (Carters Bed City). Even better, stop by either of our locations to see for yourself. We look forward to serving you!