What’s something you absolutely need to look good, be healthy, perform better, improve your mental health and be more successful? If you guessed adequate sleep, then you’re spot on.
While I could discuss the benefits of a good night’s sleep for hours, I don’t need to since everyone already knows it. Yet for some reason, very few people actually sleep well. Why is that?
A Sleep Habits Survey conducted by sleep scientists at Harvard University and the Doctors at Oxford University points to modern lifestyle practices as the culprit. An overuse of technology, substances and sleep-avoidant daily activities is responsible for keeping so many of us wide awake.
- Over-consumption of caffeine and alcohol is single-handedly responsible for ruining millions of sleep schedules. And if you thought it was just coffee, you’re in for a surprise. Even the minuscule amount of caffeine present in soda, tea and shakes can disrupt sleep. When in doubt, opt for decaf or water/milk.
- Smokers aren’t exempt from this either. Nicotine is a stimulant which means that the more you smoke, the more likely you may be to develop insomnia. Smoking also changes your circadian rhythm which leads to poor sleep. It’s advisable to give it up permanently or at least 6 hours before bedtime.
- Just like drinking close to night hours, this rule also applies to eating. Ideally you should have finished your last meal of the day 3 hours before, especially if it’s heavy.
- However, the conversation about eating late also begs the question of dietary habits. Change in diets may lead to deficiencies which lower melatonin (sleep hormone) in the body. Fasting also affects sleep because food deprivation often increases wakefulness. In such situations, it’s better to consult a doctor.
- Another serious component in sleeplessness could be medication. There is a high risk of addiction when it comes to pills (especially opioids). As for melatonin supplements, you’ll need an increased amount for it to work. These supplements will eventually make it harder for your body to fall asleep naturally. If you do need a pill to fall asleep, limit the dosage and don’t take one every single night.
(If you are taking any medicines, diet pills, herbs, or supplements, ask your health care provider about the effects they may have on your sleep).
- This wouldn’t be an article about habits affecting sleep without a cautionary word about technology. While it’s impossible to work, connect or even live without tech post covid, not turning them off a couple hours before sleeping can keep you awake for hours. And even during the day, it’s advisable to use blue light filters, keep your phone on dark mode and reduce the lighting.
The kind of sleep we get is affected by multiple factors, the most common being our habits during the day and before sleep. While it may be difficult for us to change what’s not within our control, the good news is that our daily habits aren’t in that category.
Here are a few ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ you should follow for better quality and quantity of sleep-
- Sleep in a dark, quiet room with a comfortable temperature.
- Develop a sleep routine by waking up and going to bed at the same time each day, no matter how tired or unwilling you are. It will pay off later, I promise.
- Wash and change your bedding every week to get rid of dust.
- Indulge in calming activities like reading or taking a bath.
- If you cannot fall asleep within 30 minutes, get up and have a glass of water or warm milk. Moving to another room or looking out the window until you feel sleepy is helpful for some people.
While Dos can improve your sleep quality by leaps and bounds, they would be nothing without the necessary don’ts that should also accompany them:
- Avoid hitting the snooze button
- Your bed is for sleeping. Don’t eat or work in your bedroom. That room is only for sleeping.
- Pulling all nighters, going to bed at different times or oversleeping on the weekends isn’t recommended.
- Building on the previous point, don’t underestimate the importance of getting into a regular routine of going to bed and rising at the same time every day. Depriving yourself of sleep during the midweek and binge-sleeping on the weekends also does more harm to your sleep cycles than good.
- Avoid heating up your bedroom. Studies suggest that your sleeping area should be slightly cooler than the rest of your home. If you have the ability to control the temperature of individual rooms, you should keep yours between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Here’s the low down on keeping and using tech in your bedroom before sleeping- Too many people get used to using their phone as their wake-up device. Having their phone close to the bed makes it easy to keep checking for new texts, emails, or even looking at the time.
That’s why setting your alarm and keeping it away is a much better way of doing this..Constantly reminding yourself of the time can create anxiety, making sleep more difficult. Also, keeping your alarm away from your bed reduces the chances of hitting the snooze button over and over.
ADDITIONAL SLEEP TIPS:
Followed the above DOs and Don’ts, but still not sleeping as well? These bonus tips will finish what the others started-
- Consider keeping a daily journal. It’s a way to transfer your worries to paper, leaving your mind empty and ready to rest.
- Increase your activity. Get up and move, even if it’s for a short time. Even 30 minutes is more than enough.
- If you find yourself aroused and stimulated after sex, avoid it in the evenings.
- Try to avoid napping during the day or in the evening. Distract yourself with music or some light work which won’t tax you, but still keep you alert enough so that you don’t doze off.
- Learning about relaxation techniques like breathing, guided imagery, yoga or meditation can go a long way in mitigating stress and improving sleep quality. It’s a win-win!
- Most importantly, you need to listen to your body when it tells you to slow down or take a break. If you’ve yawned twice already, then it’s time to go to bed, not scroll. Instagram can wait, your sleep shouldn’t.
Sleep patterns are often learned as children. When we repeat these patterns over many years, they become habits. In many cases, you can fix them by making a few simple lifestyle changes. But it may take some time if you have had the same sleep habits for years. So don’t get discouraged if you don’t see success immediately. Keep at it and soon you’ll be catching all your ZZZs. Sleep tight and don’t the bedbugs bite.