The culture of sleep has been relegated in recent years to something that is way down on the list of essentials. There appears to be more important things, from working more than the standard amount of hours, to late night parties, to looking after our children. Sleep isn’t deemed sufficiently popular in the world today. Instead, we are up all night checking social media or being glued to our screens, TV, phone or streaming service. The working week we subject ourselves to involves more night shifts and 12 hour days. We move a lot less. Obesity has increased in the Western world by an insane amount. This has been blamed by poor diet in addition to a sedentary lifestyle.
More and more research has been put into sleep in recent years. Sleep is where your brain, and body, recharges itself most effectively. Sleep helps your brain process information that has been learnt that day. You will have noticed when driving after a poor night’s sleep that it is that much more difficult. Your reaction times are heavily impaired if you have two hours less sleep a night than the recommended 8 hours. In fact, sleeping for 6 hours a night over a two week period are fatigued the same amount as someone who has been awake for 48 hours.
There are infinite reasons why we don’t ever get a good night’s sleep, or even have those occasional nights where we don’t sleep a wink. Maybe burning the candle at both ends can get that report in on time, but the long term effects may be devastating if you let it to dominate your life. If checking your social media account before bed has now become an automatic thing for you, you should read this.
The consequences of having a bad night’s sleep you will already know. But the ways to combat it are as follows-
Mask The Light
If you are trying to limit the amount of light that infiltrates your room at night, sleep masks or blackout blinds are a godsend. The blinds mimic nighttime so well you can’t see your hand in front of your face. After trying out a friend’s blind I don’t think I had such a good night’s sleep in years!
Yes, really! You will get a better night’s sleep if your body is cooler. If your body is too warm you will not go into a deep state of sleep. It is recommended that you keep your body cool, also your room temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Centigrade) it will help your body regulate its melatonin. The alternative, if it’s not socially acceptable where you sleep, have a cold shower two hours before bedtime. It has many benefits but for sleep, it will cool your body and reduce your cortisol (stress) levels which will put you into a slumber state.
Is Your Bed Comfy?
Limiting technology or establishing a routine will help. But if you’re not in a comfy bed, your sleep quality will seriously be hampered. Many factors will affect your physical sleep quality. For example, sleeping on your left side is better than sleeping on the right side for a multitude of reasons. Buying the right bed will really help you go the distance. Do you even have a bed that suits your size? While some of us can “sleep on a spike”, others may need to upgrade to something bigger or get a mattress that has breathable material.
Get Off Your Screens
It is simply a case that we are not taking as much time out to wind down as we used to. There is always a screen of some sort, stimulating our brains, which in turn is suppressing the body’s ability to produce melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, and this helps control our sleep and waking cycles. Using tablets and mobile phones before bedtime suppresses our body’s ability to produce melatonin because of the screen’s blue light. If you really need to use your phone before bedtime, try and get a filter app which changes the screen shade to a less harsh colour.
The 4-7-8 Method
Meditation and mindfulness are written about in abundance elsewhere. But if you aren’t so inclined to give your chakras a good clean, then maybe this little breathing technique will help. The “4-7-8” routine has been successful in relaxing your body and mind. It’s simply this, breathe in for the count of four, hold it for the count of seven, and then exhale for the count of eight. And repeat. It’s great because it requires no equipment and is so simple to do. Try it twice a day and after six weeks you will see some fantastic results.
To Sleep, Get To The Gym…
Exercise has been linked to many health benefits of course, but having yourself a good session in the gym has been linked to a reduction in cortisol. Just don’t exercise too close to bedtime. At least four hours prior will leave you ready to drop off when bedtime approaches.
Build A Bedtime Routine
These days, after a stressful and busy day, we expect to fall into bed and be asleep in a matter of minutes. Why can we not sleep when we want to? Well, probably because there isn’t a bedtime routine in place. When you were a child, do you remember having a bath, being tucked in and then being read to? Didn’t you have a wonderful night’s sleep? As we get older, we don’t think about having a routine. A few suggestions can include, a nice cup of herbal tea like camomile, a warm bath with epsom salts, or simply a good book.
That one good night’s sleep is normally what stands between us and having a productive and satisfying day. By giving one or more of these hacks a go, you will be ready to settle down and have an excellent night.