We’ve all had those nights when no matter what we do, we toss and turn wondering why we can’t fall asleep. Sleep is one of the most important parts of a healthy lifestyle and without it, we can feel fatigued, moody and lose focus. Over time, prolonged sleep deprivation has been shown to increase the risk of both physical and mental health problems, so figuring out how to catch those z’s should be a top priority for everyone. Therefore, in this blog, we aim to provide you with a couple of ideas on how you can improve your quality of sleep.
Build a sleep routine
A sleep routine involves consistently doing the same things each night before bed in order to train your mind and body to understand when it is time to wind down. This could include having no screen time for an hour before bed, doing some light stretching or meditation, having a shower or reading. Over time, when your body notices these signals, it will begin to produce melatonin (the sleep hormone) which can help you fall asleep quicker and promote better quality sleep.
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
After long stressful weekdays, it can be tempting to try to “catch up” on missed sleep at the weekend and treat yourself to a lie-in. However, this can actually promote poor quality sleep. Your circadian rhythm is your internal clock and this governs how your body works, as well as your sleep-wake cycle. If you wake up later on a weekend, by Monday morning, your internal clock will expect to sleep longer, so you will feel more lethargic having to wake up early. Similarly, if you stay up later on a weekend, by the time Sunday evening rolls around and you try to sleep earlier, you will find it difficult to drift off. Therefore, if you get up at 8am on a weekday, you should try to get up at 8am on the weekend too, as this will keep your circadian rhythm steady. Try it for a couple of weeks and see for yourself the difference that it makes.
Make some lifestyle changes
Sometimes, it can be lifestyle factors that promote unhealthy sleep. For example, eating too much before bed will make it more difficult to drift off due to the spike in your blood sugar levels. Similarly, going to bed with hunger pangs is also a bad idea. If you need to eat something before bed, opt for a light snack like peanut butter on some wholegrain toast (a protein and a complex carbohydrate) as this should keep your blood sugar levels steady.
Another known cause of sleep deprivation is alcohol. Although you may fall asleep quicker, alcohol inhibits your ability to get restful sleep and you may find up that you wake up more throughout the night. Therefore, reducing your intake can have a positive impact on your quality of sleep.
Lastly, as beneficial as daily exercise is, be aware that exercising too close to bedtime can cause sleep disturbances because it increases your body temperature and energizes your body. Therefore, try not to exercise less than 2 hours before bed.
Optimize your bedroom for sleeping
Your bedroom should be your sleep sanctuary so it needs to be optimized to promote sleep. Firstly, make sure that you keep out light as much as possible with the use of room darkening curtains or an eye mask. Secondly, your body needs to maintain a low temperature in order for you to get the best night’s sleep so make sure that the room is kept cool. Thirdly, depending on your preferences, either reduce noise as far as possible (using earplugs if needed) or alternatively, use a white noise machine if you find the silence to be deafening. Once steps like these have been taken, you should feel more relaxed and prepared for sleep when you settle down for the night.
Although the occasional sleepless night may still occur, after implementing the ideas above, you will hopefully be able to experience better quality sleep. Remember to build a routine before bed to signal to your body that it is time to relax, keep your circadian rhythm in check with consistent sleep-wake times, tweak any detrimental lifestyle choices and optimize your bedroom for sleeping. Let us know in the comments what works for you!
Disclaimer: This blog does not contain medical advice and is not written by a medical professional. If you have prolonged sleep deprivation, please consult your primary care physician.