Sleep problems are one of the most common afflictions, with most of us experiencing some difficulties with sleep at one point or another in our lives. If getting enough zzz’s is a problem for you currently, take heart! Much research has gone into developing a set of guidelines to enhance sleep quality, and there is good evidence to suggest that following these simple rules can provide long-term solutions to sleep difficulties.
Here are experts’ top tips for getting a good quality rest at night:
1) Get regular. One of the best ways to train your body to sleep well is to go to bed and get up at more or less the same time every day, even on weekends and days off. This regular rhythm will make you feel better and will give your body something to work from.
2) Sleep when sleepy, get up when not. Only try to sleep when you actually feel tired or sleepy, rather than spending too much time awake in bed. If you haven’t been able to get to sleep after about 15 minutes or more, get up and do something calming or boring until you feel sleepy, then return to bed and try again. Sit quietly on the couch with the lights off (bright light will tell your brain that it is time to wake up), or read something boring like a textbook. Avoid doing anything that is too stimulating or interesting, as this will wake you up even more.
4) Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. These substances act as stimulants and interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Many people believe that alcohol is relaxing and helps them to get to sleep at first, but it actually interrupts the quality of our sleep.
5) No naps. It is best to avoid taking naps during the day, to make sure that you are tired at bedtime. If you can’t make it through the day without a nap, make sure it is for less than an hour and before 3pm.
6) Bed is for sleeping. Try not to use your bed for anything other than sleeping and sex, so that your body comes to associate bed with sleep. If you use bed as a place to watch TV, eat, read, work on your laptop, pay bills, and other things, your body will not learn this connection.
7) Winding down time & sleep rituals. About 60 – 90 minutes before bedtime, begin the process of finishing off any housework, locking up the house, bathing, and doing whatever else you need to do to put they day to rest. You can develop your own rituals of things to remind your body that it is time to sleep – some people find it useful to do relaxing stretches or breathing exercises for 15 minutes before bed each night, read a novel, or sit calmly with a cup of milk or caffeine-free tea.
Lastly, make sure your sleeping environment is conducive to getting a good rest – pay particularly attention to minimising noise, shutting out light, good air ventilation and temperature.
Thanks to Livia for this post, image by Caroline Fontenot