It may seem obvious, but one often-overlooked factor that contributes to good health is sleep, or to be more precise, the quality of your sleep.
Research has shown that getting a good night’s rest positively affects your mental and physical health, and can also cause you to eat less and be able to exercise better.
How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep
If you want ways to improve your sleep, it’s time to make changes to your daily habits and lifestyle choices.
Here are some basic tips to help you do that. Don’t try to make changes overnight, though. Take baby steps and ease yourself into your new lifestyle, and you’ll find it more sustainable.
Sync Your Body’s Internal Clock
The circadian rhythm is your body’s natural internal clock that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Adjust to a regular cycle by setting a fixed time for sleeping and waking up every day. Choose to go to bed when you usually feel sleepy so you can fall asleep easily.
If you feel a need to sleep in, choose to take a nap instead, so you don’t disrupt your sleep-wake routine. However, napping can affect your sleep at night, so try to limit your naps to 20 minutes in the afternoon.
Control Your Exposure to Light
Try to get sunlight early in the day by getting outside or letting the light in through your windows. A study involving older adults showed that being exposed to sunlight for as little as 2 hours helped them sleep better by 80% and increased the amount of sleep by 2 hours.
At night, reduce light to a minimum because your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark. Melatonin is a natural hormone that makes you sleepy. When there’s less of it, you feel more alert.
Switch off all electronic devices when it’s time to sleep. Keep your room as dark as possible by drawing curtains to block the light from windows and wear a sleep mask if you need to.
Time Your Exercise
While exercise can improve your sleep and health, it’s better to perform it earlier in the day. Avoid exercising close to bedtime because exercise stimulates alertness and can cause you to have problems falling asleep.
Time your hard workouts to end at least three hours before bedtime and adjust it accordingly. You could opt for more relaxed exercises such as yoga in the evening to help you sleep.
Adjust Your Eating and Drinking Habits
Be aware of what you eat or drink before you go to bed, as it can affect your ability to fall asleep.
No big meals and no spicy food as it can cause stomach discomfort. Sugar and refined carbohydrates can keep awake at night, so reduce it from your diet.
Also, avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol close to bedtime. Alcohol may help you relax, but it can interfere with your sleep cycle when you’re asleep.
Unwind Before Bedtime
Have a routine to prepare your mind for sleep. Allow yourself time to unwind from the stresses and worries of the day.
Taking a warm shower, as well as listening to soothing music or sounds, all help you to relax.
Enhance Your Sleep Environment
Your bedroom should be where you relax. It’s very difficult to sleep when it’s too hot, bright, or noisy, so keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Get a good mattress, proper pillows, and comfortable bedding so you’ll feel relaxed.
Essential oils such as lavender can also calm and help you sleep. Most of all, keep your bedroom reserved for sleeping and sex only.
There are supplements, such as melatonin, that help you relax and sleep better. As mentioned earlier, melatonin is an important sleep hormone. Studies on melatonin supplements show no withdrawal effects.
As with any supplement or drug, check with your physician first.
Meditation helps calm your mind and body and is a good practice to incorporate into your pre-sleeping routine. Studies show that a hot bath before bed improves sleep quality and helps you get a deep sleep.
Every individual is different, so experiment with these tips and find those that help. Most importantly, develop these as habits and make them a part of your new healthy lifestyle.
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