It has been researched in depth, and sleeping well has a very real and direct impact on your general well-being, physical and mental health – it has a profound impact on your quality of life in general. The effects of not getting enough sleep can lead to imbalances in a variety of ways, from emotional sensitivity, to lower energy levels, and for many, can even effect your weight. That said, many of us struggle to find the sleep we need, and find ourselves rolling and tossing each night, without finding the sleep we need. There is hope, however, and by making some changes to your daily routines and night time activities, it is possible to make substantial and much needed improvements to the quality of your sleep – the net effect will help to avoid the above mentioned impacts, and leave you feeling sharp and well balanced, full of energy, and lead to a better quality of life in general. This article provides a wealth of information, details and techniques to help you get a better sleep.
How to Get a Better Sleep
For many, the idea of getting a better sleep seems like nothing more than a dream (pardon the contradiction) – tossing and turning each night, or waking up at strange times in the ‘wee’ hours of the morning. There are some techniques you can use, and habits you can work on, that will help you to find the sleep you need, and we provide an overview of some of those ideas below, to assist you in finding a better sleep.
Daily Routines & Life Habits for a Better Sleep
Modern life has certainly created a number of demands on our time, and increased the pressures and stresses that we face every day. These daily pressures, and the patterns and habits we develop around them, can often impact the quality and depth of our sleep. These daily routines have a much greater impact on our sleep patterns than most people realize, and deeply effects the quality of sleep that we get. Making measured adjustments to daily routines can have an enormous impact on sleep patterns, and making effective changes to our daily routines will go a long way to finding a better sleep.
As noted, the pace of life can often make our lives hectic, and in order to cope with the pace of things, it is very easy to fall into what might otherwise be described as “unhealthy” lifestyle habits. There are numerous elements to this, from the foods we eat, to the drinks we consume, or even to the exercise (or lack thereof) that we receive in a day. All of these choices will effect our general well-being, and this includes our state of mind, our mood and emotional state, weight, and a variety of others. All of the daily lifestyle choices we make can have an impact on getting a better sleep. The tips below provide some guidelines on how to manage your daily routines, with an eye on making the right choices to help you get a better sleep.
Circadian Rhythms – Keeping in Tune With Yourself
One of the simplest, though least understood, tips that can be given to finding a better sleep is being attentive to your circadian rhythms. These rhythms are basically your body’s “clock”. More directly defined by the National Sleep Foundation, these rhythms are “basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle.” While circadian rhythms are a natural internal and intrinsic part of us, they are easily and deeply effected by external influence, which is why it is so important to pay close attention to your habits, and how they effect this natural internal rhythm.
The recommended method to ensuring a steady and healthy rhythm, is to try and keep a regular sleeping schedule, to ensure you not only find a better sleep, but also get a more restful sleep. Following this general guideline will ensure you wake feeling much more fresh and energized. Sleep the same general number of hours, at the same times each day, to ensure your rhythms are consistent and well balanced. This means not just the same number of hours at different times, but rather the same number of hours, at the same times each day whenever possible. Periodic adjustments to this are unavoidable, but as a general rule, following this advice will help you find a better sleep.
This concept is extended to the idea of sleeping late on days off as well – doing so has an effect on your circadian rhythms, and while it may seem like a great idea on a weekend, or day off, it can have a disruptive effect on your sleep in the days following. If you need a bit more rest, it is more advantageous to have a short afternoon rest (30 to 45 minutes only), which will provide you the rest, without disrupting your rhythms – naps are recommended, sleeping-in is not. To be clear – keep your sleep/wake cycle consistent, even on weekends, and if you need to make up for lost sleep, take a short nap.
Exercise & Activity for A Better Sleep
We know you’ve heard it before – exercise is good for you. It is a well researched and now proven fact, that exercising regularly ensures a better sleep at night, and keeps oxygen levels higher in blood during the day, creating a more energized and attentive state of being. Exercising regularly during the day offers substantial benefits to anyone suffering from sleep apnea, or insomnia, and is shown to substantially improve your depth of sleep, and ensures you wake up feeling well rested and refreshed.
Finding Time to Disconnect
For many people, the stresses and pressures of every-day life tend to be ‘front and center’ when they finally get to their beds. Their thoughts, memories, pressures, worries and frustrations come to their minds when they finally lay down, and creates a lot of problems in finding their sleep. If you are one of these people, there are solutions to this issue, and they involve how you deal with and manage your day-to-day stresses. Specific techniques to managing your stress by focusing on managing your stress better, and these techniques will greatly increase your restfulness and ability to relax, and will ultimately leads to a better sleep.
It is reasonable and rational to recognize that the more active your brain is during the day, the longer it will require for your mind to relax and slow down during the evening and night hours. In a modern world, with 24/7 connectivity, mobiles/cell phones, email and myriad other social connections, it becomes increasingly difficult to unwind or detach from the frenetic pace of life.
Recommendation: set yourself specific times for your communications and social media connections, and try to complete these well before you go to bed. This will provide you some solace, and give your mind some time to unwind prior to getting to your bed, as your mind will begin to associate sleep as a time with less activity, and make it much easier for you to find a better sleep.
The word ‘meditation’ conjures images of prophetic yogis contorted into awkward poses, or somehow associates the idea with something far more complex than it really is. A meditation in the context of this article is far more simple, and could more accurately be described as a relaxation exercise. The purpose of such an exercise is to provide some relaxation and solace, and makes a deliberate attempt to calm the mind, and assist in winding down to help find a better sleep. This exercise requires nothing more than breathing and relaxing – what can be simpler than that?
Steps (water level/tension-relaxation method)
1. Close your eyes
2. Take deep breaths through your nose, until your lungs feel full
3. Exhale through your mouth, slowly and deliberately (be sure not to rush your breath – just slow and natural)
4. As you continue your breathing, put your attention to your toes. Imagine that your body is hollow, and slowly filling with warm water from your toes upwards. Alternatively, you can tense your muscles, and then slowly relax them.
5. Allow the idea of this comforting and relaxing warmth rising upwards through your calves, thighs and hips and upwards through your body. Again, you can also continue the tension and relaxation method along the way… being sure to continue the relaxed deep breathing as you go.
6. As the feeling of warmth and relaxation rises, continue until the feeling reaches the top of your head, breathing deeply as you continue.
7. Upon reaching the top of your head, continue breathing and visualize a calming and peaceful place you relate to… continue your deep breathing, while reminding yourself of the peace and relaxation of the moment you are visualizing.
We call this the sleeping kit, though it is essentially just a list of things you do to help you relax in the hours before you sleep. This can be as simple as reading a book, stretching, listening to relaxing music or podcasts – the choices are yours, though it helps to remind yourself of the things you do that you find relaxing. Keep the list handy, and itemize each of the activities so you can refer to these when you are looking for a relaxing pre-bedtime activity.
Lighting and Light Therapy for a Better Sleep
Light is a significant, though often misunderstood, aspect of our sleep cycle in general. In fact, exposure to light is a factor in the natural regulation of Melatonin in the body, which is an important element of the sleep equation. The basic principle is straight forward – the release of melatonin in the body increases with exposure to lower, or no light, while the opposite being the case during daylight, or when exposed to certain types of bright lighting.
Recommendation A: To help regulate energy levels, ensure that your exposure to light is consistent with your desired sleep/wake timing. As an example, it has been shown that exposure to sunlight in the morning increases energy levels, and will help you to have a refreshed and alert start to your day. If the opportunity is available, start your morning with breakfast in the sunlight, or outdoors, and do your best to spend as many hours in the sunlight as possible during the daylight hours. As noted above, exercise is very helpful in regulating sleep cycles, so why not a taking and afternoon walk in the sunshine?
There are certain locations and/or times when natural sunlight can be challenging to find, and in extreme cases it is also possible to find “light therapy” toolkits or boxes, which you can will mimic natural sunlight indoors, and provide some of the natural light benefits, and assist in regulating your melatonin levels appropriately. There are many different devices available, and you can make your choices depending on the various features you are looking for.
Recommendation B: It is more complicated in modern times than ever, but if possible, reduce your exposure to electronic screens, LED/LCD’s, computer screens, TV’s etc. several hours prior to your desired sleeping time. As it may be impractical to do this entirely, try to use lower brightness settings, or “night time modes” that are available with most new operating systems. Additionally, if you are watching TV, or YouTube or other media, try to choose programs that aren’t likely to raise your heart rate, or create adverse emotional reactions that will stimulate, rather than relax you. Wherever possible, listening to music, reading (books/magazines/papers, not electronic devices), or doing some other activities in the hours before bedtime will have a much more positive effect, and help you get a better sleep.
Finally, be sure that light does not pollute your bedroom, or sleeping area. Darkness has profound impact on improved sleep, and ensuring you sleep in a dark environment well help you get a better sleep.
Food & Drink – Keys to Get a Better Sleep
Everyone has heard this before, though many seem indifferent to the message, and continue to consume foods and drinks that have a negative impact on sleep. Specifically, caffeine and sugar decrease sleep performance, and should be avoided in the hours leading up to your bed time. The effects of caffeine particularly can linger in the body for many hours after you consume it, and should be avoided many many hours before sleeping. Additionally, nicotine is a stimulant, and should be avoided before sleep, which means whenever possible, avoiding products that contain nicotine is highly recommended hours before the time you wish to sleep.
If you are a “foody”, or someone who appreciates cooking and the delights of good food, then it is important to make good choices in the hours before you wish to sleep. Try to avoid spicy foods before sleeping, as these will create a lot of activity in your body, that can have an adverse effect on finding sleep when you want it.
Finally, avoid having your night time drink of alcohol before bed. This sounds counter intuitive to many, who may have heard that alcohol is actually something that will help you sleep. In fact, it is the opposite – it may help you fall asleep, but it has an impact on the quality of your sleep, and can inhibit your ability to get the ‘restful’ sleep you are seeking.
For many, these ideas may seem rather obvious, though for others the facts outlined here may be somewhat new. Any one of these suggestions will assist you to get a better sleep, though all of them in combination will certainly improve your sleep cycle, and provide you with the refreshing and rest filled sleep you are seeking. If you find that any single suggestion doesn’t have a great impact, make some alterations, or try all of the methods in combination – the important thing is not to stress too much about finding sleep. If you relax, and breath, and follow the suggestions above, you will get a better sleep.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these suggestions, and they provide some measure of assistance to you in your search to get a better sleep. Be sure to comment, or let us know your thoughts and ideas – we love to hear from you. Stay in touch, or join our newsletter to get the latest updates, news and sleeping product ideas!