One of the things that unifies us as human beings is our need for sleep. Some people may be “morning people” or “night owls”, but every single human body requires rest, which comes in the form of sleep. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced, technology-driven, stress-filled lives, proper rest can sometimes be hard to achieve. Studies show that most adults require seven to nine hours of rest for proper functioning; this can be achieved through a single bout of sleep, or a shorter sleep pattern supplemented with naps.
Sleep is a tricky thing, and affects everyone slightly differently. Your Circadian rhythms and natural habits form the basis of your sleep. If your schedule causes your sleep patterns to change regularly, then you may have adjusted to that lifestyle, while a disruption for other people can be chaotic, affecting their mental and physical prowess.
Good sleep should have a few key characteristics: undisturbed, a feeling of refreshment upon waking, alertness during the day, a lack of snoring/ fitfulness/ disturbed breathing, and the sleep should come on roughly twenty minutes after lying down with the intention to sleep. If you aren’t getting your 7-9 hours or feel beaten down and tired during the day, there are probably some very good reasons for this. Whether you are suffering from insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, or simply a lack of good sleep habits, there are ways you can improve your situation.
If you want to get back into the high-energy side of life, a few changes to your diet, daily schedule, and habits are all that you require.
1. Avoid late-night screen time: In today’s tech-heavy world, it seems impossible to tear ourselves away from our gadgets and gizmos even long enough to grab some shut-eye. However, playing on a smartphone or tablet, working on the computer, or watching television late at night gets our brain stimulated and active, making it harder for us to go to sleep. Also, our mind is occupied by thoughts of work, social media platform updates, and the plot of our favourite television drama, all of which keep our mind from shutting down for sleep.
2. Your bedroom is for sleeping: If you make it a habit of doing other things in bed, such as eating, studying, reading, or hanging out with your partner, then your body won’t associate the bedroom with sleeping. A dark room with a comfortable bed should induce sleep, but if we are constantly in the bedroom, it becomes harder to wind down for restful sleep, as we’re half-expecting to start doing something else at any moment.
3. Be consistent in your choices: Although some people function normally with non-regular sleep schedules, it has been shown that establishing a firm routine in your sleep patterns is key. Given the recent changes to the traditional “workday” and the prevalence of working from home and freelancing, it becomes easier to manipulate our schedules to our convenience. This can make it hard for our body to find a comfortable pattern. Try to go to bed and rise at the same time of day, when possible, if you are suffering from sleep deficiency or a sleep disorder.
4. Avoid stimulating chemicals: We often rely on coffee to wake us up in the morning, and maybe push us through the day. Energy drinks and supplements have also become very popular to squeeze out every drop of energy from the day, but this can also wire us well into our scheduled bedtime. We may need to wake up at the same time the following day, but the chemicals we’ve infused our body with won’t let us fall asleep. Cut back on that third cup of coffee in the afternoon and eliminate energy drinks to see if your sleep patterns return to normal.
5. Exercise regularly: Expending excess energy will increase the body’s demands for rest, often superseding any mental issue that are keeping you awake. If you regularly exercise in the morning or afternoon, your body will be ready for and need a restful sleep at night. Late-night exercising, however, can have a similar effect as late-night screen time – keeping your mind and body active well into your intended bedtime.
6. Throw away your alarm clock: The jarring nature of the alarm clock can be very disruptive for sleep patterns and make you start the day in an uncomfortable way. Having progressively louder alarms on a particular time pattern can help ease one out of slumber and start the day in a positive way, rather than slamming an angry, exhausted hand for the alarm clock. Eventually, your body may even train itself to wake up a few minutes before the set alarm time, which is the most peaceful and natural way to wake up!
7. Meditation and visualization: If you’re suffering from sleep problems, some alternative remedies can be meditation and visualization. Meditation helps soothe the mind and clear out distracting thoughts, while visualization can be a powerful tool in bed when your mind is going a million miles an hour. Visualize peaceful, restful sleep, and it will soon come to you!
8. Take a nap when you need it: Using naps sparingly throughout the day, when your body demands it, can be beneficial, particularly if you struggle to sleep for a solid 8 hours straight. Short catnaps can energize us for the day, eliminating the need for chemical stimulants, and also ensure that the final sleep of the day we get is restful and invigorating.
9. Cut down on alcohol and cigarettes: Alcohol may help you “pass out”, but that isn’t restful sleep, and has a host of other health impacts that one would rather avoid. Similarly, the calming nature of a cigarette may seem ideal before you close your eyes, but cigarettes and nicotine are stimulants, technically making it harder for your pulse to slow and your mind to prepare for sleep.
10. Eat wisely: Eating large meals late at night is unwise, but there are some sleep-inducing foods that can be helpful if you’re staring at the ceiling every night. Foods high in magnesium and other important nutrients can cause the release of neurotransmitters that send you right into slumber. Try adding cottage cheese, fruit or yogurt to your late-night menu!