SLEEP! There are many reasons why good quality sleep eludes so many of us. Physiological reasons, emotional reasons, external substances, neurological….the list is endless. Some of these things we cannot change on our own. However, many of our daily habits can be adjusted to maximize our quality of sleep.
So, why is good sleep even important? Besides falling asleep at the most inopportune times, such as in class, or, say, driving (!), studies have shown that sleep is crucial for immune function, metabolism, learning, and other vital functions. Not only that, but research suggests that memory consolidation takes place during sleep – which is basically making sure that what you learned during the day, stays put inside your brain. Kind of important for the basic functions of life.
To learn more about healthy sleep, go to http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep
There are obviously numerous reasons to make sleep a priority. Figuring out what is keeping us from a good night sleep may be easy. Implementing the changes may be tricky, but well worth the effort. Here is a list of reasons why you may be loosing sleep. Can you find the one (or more) that are preventing you from dreamland?
An easy culprit to poor sleep is caffeine. It may be tricky, but cutting back on caffeinated beverages may be the answer to a better nights sleep.
Alcohol also has a detrimental affect on sleep. Many people will find that getting sleepy after a couple of glasses of wine is a welcome invite for an early bedtime, however studies show that the quality of sleep is intermittent and people tend to wake up more frequently after enjoying a few too many glasses before bed.
Interestingly enough, smokers often have poor quality sleep due to the bodies need for a nicotine fix throughout the night. The brain registers the lack of nicotine and wakes up the body, wether you know it or not, the deep sleep that is needed has been interrupted multiple times throughout the night.
Emotions can also play a big role when we lie down and attempt to drift into dreamland. Excitement, stress, nervousness, or an overactive brain that tries to deal with the list of to-do’s just as the lights go out. All of these emotions and thoughts can keep you up for hours….
Alternating Sleep Schedule
Shift work is an extremely exhausting way to accomplish regular sleep patterns. Changing your job may not be an option, but setting yourself up for a good stretch of quality sleep is an option. Try to follow the basic steps below, and hopefully you can accomplish some good sleep patterns no matter what time of day it is.
The formula for good, basic sleep is pretty simple and can help many sleep issues disappear if you give it a chance.
There are also many issues that cannot be solved by simply applying some of the basic sleep rules. Some problems that may need more intervention include sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and depression. If you are concerned about your sleep patterns, it is important to consult your doctor and see if there is a solution.
7 Steps to Better Sleep and Basic Sleep Preparation
1) No caffeine 8 hours before bedtime. If bedtime is 10pm, then swap out your caffeinated beverages for decaf, or caffeine-free by 2pm! Give yourself a week or two to adjust, and you may find you don’t need the caffeine because your body is rested and ready to keep going well into the afternoon and evening.
2) No alcohol before bed. If you enjoy more than one glass of wine (or alternative) before bedtime, consider having your last one about 2 to 3 hours before hitting the hay. Alcohol increases the amount of times your body wakes up throughout the night, and therefore reduces the benefits of a good quality sleep.
3) Reduce (or quit!) smoking. This is a tricky habit to conquer, more than I can simply write about here. However, if you are desperate for some balance and good quality sleep in your life, it may be something to consider.
4) Dark is for Sleeping. Light is for Waking. Honour your bodies natural sleep/wake cycle. Invest in good quality black-out drapes (shift-workers especially!) and open the curtains or turn on the lights when its time to wake up.
5) The bed is for sleeping! Many of us use our beds for watching tv, folding laundry, finishing up work on the laptop, checking emails, etc. Your bed needs to be used for sleeping and only sleeping (well, almost only sleeping!) Just like children need routines around sleep, so do adults. Train your body to see the bed as the Welcome Mat to dreamland. Finish all your work, tv-ing, texting, emailing, phone-using OUT of bed. The light from these screens tell your brain that its still daytime, and therefore you may have a difficult time just getting to sleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night, resist the urge to check emails, or social media. If you can, use a dim light to read a few pages of a book. If you are still wide awake, get out of bed and continue to read in a different room. Sleep experts seem to agree that being restless in bed leads you to think that the bed is bad.
6) Make your bed a sleep haven. It may be worthwhile to invest in a new mattress or better pillows. If you can, get rid of the clutter in your room, or anything that reminds you of anything other than sleeping! Do you have laundry baskets on the floor? An exercise machine in your room? Piles of work files or kids projects on the dresser? This may be the time to reorganize your room! Clear it out and only allow items that calm you back in.
7) Put those thoughts to bed. Finally, bedtime seems to be the perfect environment for your brain to get active. Its been a busy day and everything you put off thinking about suddenly resurfaces just as the lights go out. Keep a notepad or journal by your bed so you can quickly jot down thoughts, to-do lists and emotions that seem to flood your brain. This allows your brain to feel like it can deal with your thoughts and feelings at another (more appropriate!) time, and you can now relax knowing that you’ve got your thoughts “out”.
So, those are the basics. Put them to good use and you may be well on your way to a restful night!
Happy Sleeping! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
While there may be information related to certain medical conditions and their treatment on this website, please consult your doctor or other healthcare professional to determine if a treatment described in the website is appropriate for you.