Study after study has proven that sleep contributes to a better quality of life on a day-to-day basis and in the long run. The benefits of sleep extend to both a mental and physical level. We’ve all experienced them, for sure, but have we truly realized how significant they are?
Physical and Mental Benefits of Sleep
After a night of peaceful and adequate sleep, you wake up feeling refreshed and rested, ready to take on any challenge the day throws at you. You’re more likely to hit the gym and make better food choices, all while maintaining lower stress levels and improved mood throughout the day.
Your ability to concentrate and make decisions also increases. No surprise there. Who can keep a clear head with 4 hours of sleep? Quality sleep also enhances your memory and makes you a faster learner.
And we’re not done yet. Getting enough sleep also improves your immune system. In fact, even one night of poor sleep increases your likelihood of catching a cold.
Skipping a few years ahead, people who get plenty of sleep on a regular basis have lower chances of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, and even cancer.
Most adults need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep. According to statistics, 40% of Americans get less than 7 hours. It’s time to shift gears and prioritize health, don’t you think?
How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of sleep, let’s go through some easy-to-follow sleep hygiene rules that will help you establish a healthy sleep routine.
Dim the lights early on
Light increases cortisol levels, which is one of the hormones that keep you awake. As you’re preparing your body for sleep, dim the lights to enable the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone, to work its magic. That’s even more important during the summer when the sun goes down a lot later than in the winter.
Increase your exposure to light in the day
To keep your circadian rhythm working like a clock, it’s not enough to give your brain signals that it’s time to unplug. You also need to signal when it’s time to wake up and stay awake. This can be best achieved when you give your body enough light cues throughout the day. In other words, don’t close those curtains, and don’t stay at home or glued to your office desk all day.
Turn off electronics, and keep them away
Electronic devices emit blue light, which has a similar impact on your circadian rhythm as natural light. That means you should avoid watching TV or using your smartphone for at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. If you can’t resist the temptation to grab that phone, then at least put a blue light filter on. And definitely don’t do any work on your laptop before bedtime.
Do you have a habit of keeping your phone on the nightstand? Not a good idea, as you’ll probably be tempted to pick it up if you wake up in the middle of the night. Which will only make it harder for you to fall back to sleep. So try keeping your phone in another room. This also works as a trick to get you out of bed easier in the morning once the alarm goes off.
Create a wind-down ritual
What is your favorite relaxing activity? Is it yoga or meditation? Reading a good book? Or do you enjoy pampering yourself with a long bath? Whatever your thing is, make room for a little wind-down ritual that will help you let go of the day and prepare yourself for a long, restful sleep.
Go easy on the caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine is a strong stimulant that can take up to 12 hours to leave your system. Drinking coffee, tea or energy drinks in the afternoon will most likely disrupt your sleep. Try to stick to just one cup of coffee in the morning, especially if you’ve noticed that coffee gets you jittery.
The same goes for alcohol, which messes with melatonin production and diminishes the quality of your sleep. There’s a common myth that wine will help you sleep better. While wine can indeed help you drift off, enjoying more than one glass is also likely to lead to a restless and disrupted night sleep.
Have an early, light dinner
Eating close to your bedtime can also affect your sleep. Instead, try to eat a light dinner at least two hours before going to bed because an upset stomach can keep you up at night. Going to bed on an empty stomach can be just as bad as you might additionally head for the fridge for a late-night snack.
Exercise is an all-powerful weapon that can do wonders for your sleep. Exercise will reduce your stress levels and help you drift off faster without worrisome thoughts troubling your mind. It’s best to avoid high-intensity exercise in the late afternoon, though, as it might increase your alertness and postpone your sleep time.
Don’t take long naps during the day
Naps are not for everyone. Some people feel disoriented after an afternoon nap or have difficulty falling asleep at night. But if you need to take a nap to keep you going, it’s best to do it before 3 pm, keeping it between 10-20 minutes. Following those two rules means you won’t disrupt your internal clock, and you’re less likely to feel that nap dizziness afterward.
Create a relaxing environment
Starting with your room temperature. You’ve probably noticed how it’s hard to fall asleep if you’re shivering with cold or during a heatwave. Although these are extreme examples, the point is that you need to keep your room temperature at around 60-67°F. It’s also important to keep the noise level to a minimum, so always close your windows or wear earplugs.
You can also create a relaxing environment by decorating your bedroom with big, fluffy pillows, candles with relaxing scents, or a small plant. Whatever works best for you. And remember, your bedroom is sacred, so never work on your bed. After a couple of times, your brain will soon form a link between your bedroom and work, and you’ll have trouble powering down.
Consistency is key in maintaining a healthy sleep routine. Going to bed and wake up at the same time every day can help in that direction. If necessary, set an alarm one hour before bed to remind yourself that it’s time to slow down your rhythms.
Also, many people sleep in during the weekend to make up for their lack of sleep during the week. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence supporting that sleeping can undo the damage caused by sleep deprivation. Therefore, it’s best to focus your efforts on getting an adequate amount of sleep every day.
Try some all-natural remedies
There are several natural herbs that promote relaxation and could potentially help you sleep better. The most commonly used are valerian, lavender, passionflower, and chamomile. Alternatively, you can try a melatonin supplement. Melatonin is an innocuous sleep aid that can help you fall asleep faster and sleep better throughout the night.
Feeling ready to head off to Dreamland? Contact us today if the stressors of life are keeping you awake at night!