Sleep is crucial for a healthy mind and body. Falling into an unhealthy sleep habit can be detrimental to your health, especially if it’s over a long period of time.
When you fall asleep you progress through five stages of sleep which help your body and mind recover from daily activities. During the first four stages of sleep (NREM sleep) the body releases growth hormones which are vital for physical recovery. During the fifth and final stage (REM sleep), the neurotransmitters in your brain are rejuvenated.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that help transfer signals which explains why it’s hard to concentrate if you suffer from a lack of sleep. This is briefly why sleep is crucial. Now let’s examine four ways to improve sleep patterns.
Now let’s examine four ways to improve sleep patterns.
1. Eliminate all sources of light
When light hits the skin, your body stops releasing melatonin which is the sleep hormone the body uses to help you fall asleep. Our bodies have circadian rhythms which regulate our sleep/wake cycle and this is disrupted through light being detected by our bodies- not only via our eyes but also our skin. This is why it is very important to close all sources of light shining through if we want to maintain a deep and uninterrupted sleep pattern.
Get blackout curtains that prevent any light penetrating and ensure that the temperature and noise levels are also not a disruptive factor. Definitely turn off your phone or put it into a box as the light from the screen disrupts your sleep cycle.
Exercising is a great way to help you relax and fall asleep much more easily since the body becomes tired. Motivating yourself to exercise is usually the hardest challenge. However, once you overcome this and get into a regular routine, it allows you to condition yourself to fall asleep.
Exercise also forces the body to recover during the NREM stages of sleep and thus creates a need for your body to fall asleep. If you are full of energy and quite alert, this is incompatible with falling asleep, so tiring yourself out is very effective. Here are some simple yet effective exercises anyone can do even if they are busy.
3. Sleep early
Sleeping at a reasonable time is one major way to start getting into the habit of training your body for a good night’s sleep. People who struggle to sleep often stay awake until the late hours of the evening and this then becomes habitual. Clock-watching and counting down the hours of sleep time remaining can lead you to be more cognitively alert as you stress about having to wake up again with less time asleep.
This can actually lead to secondary insomnia where anxiety over struggling to fall asleep makes it even harder. Training your body to start to go sleep earlier can really help you start to condition your body to sleep at a much more reasonable time. Over time the body will instinctively start to fall asleep at this earlier time as old sleep patterns are broken.
4. Eat at a reasonable time
Make sure to eat well so that you don’t find yourself waking up due to hunger but also ensure it’s at a reasonable time. If you eat too late you may find yourself struggling to lie down without feeling uncomfortable and then struggling to get to sleep because you feel bloated.
If you eat too early you may get hungry in the middle of the night and then struggle to fall back asleep on an empty stomach. Finding the balance and then sticking to set meal times is the key.
Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com