10 Steps to a better nights sleep
By Lucy Marks
Approximately one third of the world’s population is sleep deprived, and if you’re the weary one in three, research shows that there are far greater risks to your health than just those dark circles under your eyes. Persisting sleep problems raise your risk of stroke, heart and other chronic diseases, and overall decreases quality of life. But the good news is, you’re not doomed to toss and turn every night - consider the following tips for getting more zzz’s in.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants close to bedtime. As us coffee lovers know, caffeine is a stimulant that keeps us alert and awake- it is important to limit caffeine and other stimulants including alcohol and nicotine for at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime to prevent any possible interference.
Regularly practice stress management. We all lead busy lives, and when we have too much to do and too much to think about, our sleep will often suffer, mindfulness and relaxation practices can help us to unwind after a stressful day, this aids a better and deeper sleep at night.
Adopt a regular sleeping pattern. Going to bed when tired, at a reasonably consistent time is an important part of sleeping well. An irregular sleeping pattern, such as going to be late and then sleeping in, perpetuates a poor sleeping habit.
Create a night time ritual. The ritual acts as a cue for your mind and body to wind down so that by the time you get into bed, your body will have already begun to shutdown, and you’ll be fast asleep by the time your head hits that pillow of yours.
Excluding sex, use your bed only for sleep. Admit it, we’re all guilty of watching episodes upon episodes of Game of Thrones or The O.C., on our laptops, encompassed by masses of doona… unfortunately, such practices can condition us not to sleep when we get into bed, so it is best to opt for the couch.
Sleep in complete darkness. Melatonin, the hormone that encourages peaceful slumber, is made in the brain and sent out into the bloodstream only during darkness. Sleeping in the darkness is essential for maintaining normal melatonin function, and hence a healthy sleeping pattern.
Choose appropriate evening meals. Avoid eating any foods that cause indigestion, or ones that stimulate the nervous system. It is also advisable to finish eating dinner many hours before bedtime, if you are still hungry after dinner, we suggest having a small snack that, from your own experience, does not disturb sleep.
Increase your daily intakes of calcium, magnesium and vitamin B6. These nutrients, in modest amounts, can aid sleep by calming the nerves.
Participate in regular physical activity. Regular exercise promotes a better, deeper sleep and helps you to fall asleep faster. However, the timing of physical activity is an important factor- if you exercise too late, your blood cortisol levels may be too elevated and you will find yourself too energized to fall asleep.
Get comfortable. Your mattress and pillow can contribute to better sleep. Features of good bedding can be very subjective, so it is best to choose what feels most comfortable to you!