You probably spend 25-40% of your life sleeping. During that time your brain and body are busy overseeing biological maintenance that will enable you to reach your full potential.
Many of us, however, perceive sleeping as a waste of time and try to limit it as much as possible. This impacts our long term functioning. Here are some hints on how to improve the quality of one of the most basic necessities in life.
1. Make quality sleep a priority.
There are countless demands nowadays that make our life busy, and the easiest time to cut is sleep. However, to improve its quality you need to make it a priority. It won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen if you don’t perceive it as an important factor of the quality of your life. The first step to have quality sleep is to put it close to the top of your priority list. You can also start building positive habits around your dreaming.
2. Build a quality sleep environment.
In most articles about quality sleep, you will find the usual set of rules, such as keeping your bedroom dark and quiet, having a comfortable bed, keeping the temperature low, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, avoiding TV etc. Let’s just mention it all once – these things are very important and it really matters for your relaxing bedtime routine!
3. Observe and experiment.
Everyone is different and this is why observing yourself is so important to have quality sleep. Start a diary. Install an application on your mobile phone for sleep tracking. Try experimenting with your pre-sleep routine, timing, exercises, room temperature, and sleep length to see what works best for you. If you make it fun set of experiments, you will soon find your own, natural style and not “one fits all” solution.
4. Don’t nap for too long
Napping is actually very healthy if you do it right. There is just one rule: keep it under 25 minutes, where 10-15 minutes is best.
Sleep unfolds in a series of recurring sleep stages: N1 (transition to sleep, usually few minutes), N2 (light sleep, usually 10-25 minutes), N3 (deep sleep, usually 20-40 minutes), REM (rapid eye movement) and then the cycle repeats itself. The average length of the first sleep cycle is usually between 70 and 100 minutes and later cycles are about 90 to 120 minutes.
The worst thing you can do is to take a nap to enter the deep sleep and then be woken up in the middle of it. You will probably feel much worse after the nap than before! Understanding your sleep cycle is also important for experimenting, because you can plan your alarm time based on the sleep length, rather than specific hour. You can also try installing an application that analyzes your sleep patterns and tries to wake you up when you should feel relaxed the most, or invest in a special device like Jawbone UP or Fitbit One.
5. Expose yourself to light wisely.
Light exposure controls melatonin, which is a naturally occurring hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. If you have problems getting up early, try exposing yourself to strong light in the morning and use dimmed light and sunglasses in the evenings. You may also like to rearrange your space to let as much light in as possible. Spend more time outside during daylight, avoid computer, TV and backlit devices at night. The opposite will also work if you want to stay awake in the evenings – just avoid the light in the morning and expose yourself to it in the evenings.
6. Establish a pre-sleep routine.
Establishing a pre-sleep routine can prepare you mentally for the next few hours and your body will feel it. The whole day could be crazy, but if you regularly take a short shower, make few physical and breath exercises and then go to bed, your body will start relaxing during the first moments of your shower, a long time before you are actually ready to sleep.
7. Anticipate wake-up.
Have you ever tried to wake up early in the morning to catch a flight or bus? Your sleep was probably quite short and yet the morning was energized. It is all in your head. When you anticipate wake-up and there is something important waiting for you in the morning, your energy level will be much higher. Plan a quick activity or task early in the morning that will help you achieve quality sleep.
8. Boost your morning.
Music, dance and fun will greatly help you wake up. They are very powerful mood-enhancing tools that will determine your morning state of mind. Try your best tunes, few crazy moves and some good set of jokes that will pump your blood full of positive energy to your whole body. First few moments during the day will impact the way you think about your sleep.
9. Exercise during the day.
The worst thing that can happen when you want to go to sleep is that your mind is worried and tired, but your body has not exercised that much during the day. Physical activity is so important for your health! By exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day, you can have quality sleep, reduce your risk of heart disease and many more.
10. Take a sleep vacation from time to time.
Life is life, we don’t always sleep as much as we should and over time, we tend to create something called “sleep debt,” which is simply a cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep. Sleep debt is dangerous, resulting in impaired memory, concentration, and motor skills. Your immune system and healing process also suffer. This is why from time to time, you should take a sleep vacation and return to your quality sleep. You simply have to pay your debt back before your organism asks for it!
Sleep affects many aspects of our life. Having a quality sleep is very important to have a quality life.
If you have your own best ways to have quality sleep, share them with me!