Five steps to better sleep

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If you want to sleep longer or just better, these five steps to better sleep will help. Sleep is a vital aspect of our daily lives and is often underestimated in its importance. Science is slowly decoding the mystery of why we need sleep and the results are very interesting.

Sleep helps our body recover from exercise and from life. Your brain is cleaned of waste chemicals, your organs and cells are repaired, you day’s experiences are processed, lessons sent to memory and many other things happen while you’re asleep. So what might consciously seem as downtime is actually anything but!

So how can we improve the quality of our sleep?

Easy on the caffeine

Different people have different tolerances for caffeine. Some can have an espresso and fall asleep an hour later. Others need a full eight hours of decaf before they relax. Find out which you are and adjust your intake accordingly. If you find it hard to relax or settle at night, stop the caffeine an hour earlier the next day. If after a couple of days nothing changes, try an hour earlier. Keep going until you can settle, or you stop drinking caffeine around 8-9 hours before bed.

Get some sunlight

Our bodies work on circadian rhythms, meaning the natural day and night cycle influences our sleep patterns. You would think getting some sunshine would be simple in Malta. But if you work in an office or in a warehouse, getting a bit of sunshine can be harder than it should be.

Take a tea break outside, go for a walk at lunch, walk to and from work if possible and get some sunshine. It doesn’t have to be for long. As well as refilling your vitamin D levels sunshine ensures your body knows what time it is. Conversely, at night, make sure your bedroom is dark to encourage sleep.

Exercise is a natural sedative

Sleep helps our bodies repair after exercise. Our brains know this, so can switch off much faster if we take light exercise before bed. Walk the dog, walk briskly along the beach or around where you live. Keep the exercise light and not too intensive.

Once you get home, shower to lower your body temperature, have a drink of water and then go to bed. You should find it much easier to sleep.

Manage meals

Eating and drinking before bed can be troublesome. A light snack, glass of water or milk is fine. Large meals or alcohol can interrupt sleep. Try to avoid these for at least two hours before going to bed. A large meal needs a lot of work to digest which can disrupt all the other things your body needs to do. Spices and acidic foods can also cause your metabolism to speed up or even cause heartburn or indigestion.

Alcohol interferes with your natural sleep cycle so anything other than a nightcap should be avoided where possible.

Create a sleep routine

Where practical, go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. That includes weekends. If you have to be up at a certain time each morning, count back in 90 minute blocks and try to go to sleep as close to the beginning of eight hours’ worth those blocks as possible. The sleep cycle is 90 minutes long so enabling as many complete cycles as possible will be hugely beneficial.

Try to keep the room at the same temperature, read for the same amount of time, drink the same amount of water before sleep or whatever. Try to create a routine and stick to it.

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