Most of us need more sleep. It is a fact. The modern world is great for a lot of things but sleep sure isn’t one of them. Before we had things like electric lighting and 9 hour work days most people slept more. Rughly a third of all adults in the developed world are chronically tired, which is why it is so important that we do what we can to sleep better.
One of the most simple yet effective things that we can do to sleep better is to ensure that we have a good bedtime routine. The process of getting ready to go to bed, what we do in the hours and minutes leading up to getting into bed, can make or break the quality and quantity of sleep. While many of us have good routines there are far too many people that have terrible routines that are actually negatively impacting their sleep. This guide will run through all the changes you need to make to have better sleep all the time.
Have a lighter dinner
Thw saying ‘have breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper’ is very accurate on when it comes to sleep. Going to bed with a full stomach, especially if you have eaten rich or spicy foods, can have a huge impact on your sleep. Your digestive system will be working overtime processing all this food and this can make it harder to get to sleep and stay asleep. Eat light at night to have a better sleep. Think about the types of food you are eating in the four-six hours you eat before bed and try to eat a light and healthy dinner that will set you up for the night.
Stick to a regular bedtime
The body’s sleep wake cycle is regulated by something called a body clock. The body clock is the brain function that controls when you go to sleep and wake up through the use of a range of hormones, with melatonin as the major one. Your body clock is like any clock in that it works best when it sticks to a strict schedule. Getting your body to go to sleep and wake up is a complex process and the more you switch your bedtime (and wake time) around the more it will struggle. Try to stick to a schedule for going to sleep and waking and if you do need to chance the schedule then do it as gradually as you can so your body clock can make the adjustments.
Avoid bright light
The body clock is calibrated by light. The more light the body clock registers the less melatonin the body produces and the more awake you will feel. In the past humans had no artificial light so this was never a problem but now we are surrounded by it all the time. One of the biggest issues in the modern age is that use of smartphones and tablets in bed. These have bright backlit screens that send light straight into the optic nerve. The advice is not to use this devices in bed as they can play havoc with sleep. It is also advisable to have low wattage bulbs and indirect lighting in your bedroom where possible.
Do something relaxing before and in bed
The later it gets the more relaxed your activity should be. Don’t listen to loud music or watch a graphic horror movie while you are getting ready to go to sleep, don’t go for a long run or hype yourself up before bed. Have a bath, read a book or listen to a relaxing piece of music. These are the best activities for your body and brain, they will help you ease from the world of the waking to the world of sleep. Clearly considering the above issue, if you are going to read in bed then make sure you are not doing it on a smartphone or tablet. A pro-tip is that most e-readers are not backlit and can be used in the same manner as a book.
Don’t drink alcohol
While most of us know to avoid coffee at night many do not realise that alcohol can also cause sleep issues. While it does make it easier to fall asleep it impacts the sleep cycles, meaning that rather than falling into REM sleep many people will wake up and then struggle to get back to sleep. Most experts recommend having your last drink three to four hours before you go to sleep though obviously this is not always possible. However, if your routine has been to have a nightcap most evenings then you need to avoid this.
While many people think meditation is just for yogis and spiritualists it is actually a very effective method of relaxing and calming the mind and many people who have sleep issues or simply struggle to sleep because of their stress levels find meditation an excellent way of getting themselves into the right mental state for sleep. It is a good way of firebreaking the day’s concerns, of letting your brain let go of all the worries you have about the coming day. It is relatively easy to learn as long as you are willing and a 15 minute period before bed is a fantastic routine to get into.
Changing your sleep routine can help massively, you will sleep better and you will wake feeling far more revitalised. Don’t let exhaustion impact your life or those around you, make the positive changes to your routine and get a better sleep night after night.
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