It is almost like a riddle, ‘what is so important that when you get it you don’t think about it, but when you don’t get it then all you can think about is it?’ Sleep! If you are sleeping well each night then you will barely think about it, it is just something you do each night. If you are not sleeping well then it becomes an obsession, something you worry about and fear each night. The longer this goes on the worse it gets.
Not that this will help, but you may not be aware of how vital sleep is to almost every aspect of your health and wellbeing. Not only does it help with energy but it also regulates your moods, helps control your appetite, plays a vital role in memory storage and recall, facilitates healing and recovery and many other areas of physical and psychological wellbeing and health. In short, sleep is essential, which means that if you are not sleeping well then you need to do everything you can to ensure that you can remedy this.
There are a million and one reasons why you may not be sleeping well, from stress to medication, from an overactive imagination to a noisy environment. Each of these has different causes and will require different cures. However, for many people there is no obvious reason for their sleep problem, nothing apparent that would be causing them to miss those precious hours of sleep at night. This is when insomnia can become incredibly worrying, as if there is nothing obvious causing it there is nothing obvious you can do to cure it.
If this is an issue for you then you need to read on. There are no silver bullets here, but rather sensible suggestions that can help you to sleep. You may want to try some, or even all, of them. You may only need to try one to get success, or you may try every single one and not have any change at all. Unfortunately sleep is like that and until we find a switch (and that is not as silly as it sounds as researchers have found a ‘switch’ in mice that lets them put them to sleep and wake them), you will just need to keep working away at it, trying new things and most of all, relaxing into it. With that said, here are some tips on how to get the perfect night’s sleep.
• Stick to a regular sleep schedule: This is probably one of the most important. The body clock is in charge of regulating your sleep-wake cycle. As a ‘clock’ it works to a cycle, so if you want to sleep well each night you should try to go to sleep around the same time. Working with your body clock is the best way of sleeping well. If you have an irregular sleep schedule you make it hard for your body clock to put you to sleep.
• Avoid alcohol and caffeine at night: You will have guessed the caffeine but maybe not the alcohol. Caffeine’s ability to keep people awake is well known but alcohol’s is less well known. In fact, many people use alcohol to get to sleep and it does help in that area. The big problem is that it plays havoc with your sleep cycle and not only do you not have a fulfilling night’s sleep but you may even wake in the middle of the night and struggle to get back to sleep. Avoid both of these for at least four hours before you go to bed.
• Exercise every day: The more exercise you get in a day the more easily you will fall asleep, though try not to exercise in the last four hours before bed. Even if you do not have time to go to the gym you should try and do as much physical activity each day, say taking the stairs instead of the lift. Getting 30 minutes of exercise each day is a great way of ensuring that you are tired enough each night to get to sleep so make sure that get out there and exercise.
• Eat and drink the right stuff: What you eat and drink can make a huge difference, there are some excellent food and drinks that can help you sleep. Things like cherries, dairy products, cereals, most herbal teas, bananas and almonds, amongst many others, have all been proven to have beneficial impacts on sleep so eat and drink these. At the same time you need to avoid those foods and drinks that have been shown to negatively impact sleep, things like junk food, spicy foods and heavy meals, as well as soft drinks and the two mentioned above, alcohol and coffee.
• Find a way to relax in bed: Everyone has a different way of doing this, but one of the most common is reading. However if you do not like reading you could listen to a podcast or soothing music. The key is to take your mind of the day’s issues, to relax the mind and get ready to sleep. Turn it into a nightly ritual, where you do the same relaxing thing each night to get to sleep.
• Turn your room into a sleep chamber: Your bedroom needs to be a perfect sleep chamber, you want to ensure that it is dark and quiet. Research has shown that even the smallest amount of light can have a negative effect (yes even the standby light on a digital device) so make sure everything is turned off. You also need to ensure that your room is quiet, so make sure you have insulating curtains and if necessary get some earplugs.
Hopefully some of these work for you, give them a try and keep sticking to it, but most of all make sure that you relax! The biggest hangup when it comes to sleep troubles is worrying about sleep troubles, so try not to stress about it!
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