Most of us need to sleep better. Chronic lack of sleep can lead to anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. The World Health Organization has even listed night work as a carcinogen.
Most people need 7–9 hours of sleep each night. When you get enough sleep, your body is able to physically and mentally recover from your day, so that you are able to face tomorrow with vigor and zest.
It’s up to you to do everything in your power to ensure you improve your sleep. Here are my top ten tips for better sleep.
1. Have a regular sleep and wake cycle.
If you go to bed and get up at the same time every day, you will train your body to have a regular sleep and wake cycle. If you are going to bed at different times and getting up early during the week while sleeping in at the weekend, your body doesn’t know what to do. With a regular sleep/wake cycle, your body will adapt and you will have more energy in the mornings.
2. Exercise regularly.
Regular exercise burns off all your excess energy, meaning you will feel more rested in the evening. Experiment with your exercise times. Some people feel energized after exercise and can’t sleep straight away and some people are OK with exercise before bed. Try exercising in the morning and evening and see what works best for you.
3. Include regular stretching.
If your muscles and joints are sore from either lots of exercise, or not enough exercise, you may feel uncomfortable in bed. Add some stretching or even some light yoga in the evenings before bed time to help loosen your muscles and unwind from the day.
4. Focus on your breathing.
If you are the type to toss and turn for a long time, try this simple exercise: lie on your back with your arms by your sides. Take a long full breath in and exhale slowly. Feel the air enter and leave your lungs. Repeat 10 times. By the time you get to 5 or 6 you should be feeling very relaxed, and maybe you will even have fallen asleep by then.
5. Accept your worries.
If your worries are keeping you awake at night, remember that it is OK and perfectly normal to have worries and concerns. Accept that this is normal, and it is OK to forget about them while you go to sleep.
6. Write tomorrow’s to-do list tonight.
If you have a long list of worries or things you need to do, don’t wait until tomorrow to take action. Before you go to bed, write a list of your most important tasks to do tomorrow. Once you have gotten these thoughts on paper, and you are mentally prepared for tomorrow, your mind will know it can rest now and you can get some sleep. Keep a pen and paper by your bed if you think of things in the middle of the night.
7. Reduce caffeine intake.
We all know that we should reduce our caffeine intake in the afternoon so that it doesn’t keep us awake. Unfortunately some of us need to reduce it further or eliminate it altogether. Some people metabolize caffeine quickly. If you are one of these lucky people, then simply stop drinking caffeine after 3pm and it shouldn’t affect your sleep. Other people metabolize caffeine slowly. If you suspect you might be one of those people, try eliminating caffeine completely. Or if you can’t do that, don’t drink it after 10am.
8. Dim your lights.
Bright lights tell our brain that it is day time and we should be awake. When it gets dark outside, then you should also make it darker in your house. Have less lights on in the house, or dim them if you can. This will tell your brain that it is night time and it’s time to wind down and go to sleep soon.
9. Switch off electronic media.
The blue light that emits from televisions, computer screens, tablets and phone screens also tells our brain to stay awake. An hour or two before bed, it’s time to switch off your electronics. Spend this time with your family or read a good book. If you must use your electronics, purchase a blue light screen filter for your gadgets.
10. Keep your bedroom sacred.
Your bedroom is for two things only: sleep and sex. If you use your laptop in bed, or your phone, or if you watch television in bed, then you are signalling to your brain that bed time is not necessarily sleep time. Train your brain to accept that bed time is for sleep and sex only. This is training your brain to relax in bed, so you will sleep better.
Now you are armed with some of the best tips for getting better sleep. Try one at a time, or try them all at once. Better sleep = Better health.
Featured photo credit: Supermoon 2013 Over NYC / Bob Jagendorf via flickr.com