Did you know that we spend more than one third of our lives sleeping? And we’re doing some important stuff while we do; repairing our body and mind, processing the day’s events, restoring energy and regulating essential functions of the brain including emotions and memory.
We all know that a good night’s sleep can set us up for a great day ahead. But sometimes, it’s easier said than done. Busy work and home lives can make us feel like there’s just not enough hours in the day. For many of us, that has been compounded this year with stretches of home schooling to add into the mix. Throw in a few hours of binge-watching and screen-scrolling and some evenings we fall into bed too late and ill-prepared for a quality night of sleep.
So how can we make sure the sleep we’re getting is giving us what our bodies need? Here are some of our favourite ideas to keep in mind…
1. Active days, restful nights
It’s a great feeling when you’ve had a big day of exercise and fresh air followed by a deep and restorative sleep. Getting your heart rate up during the day for at least 20 minutes or more can bring on sleep more rapidly and promote a longer sleeping time. Just make sure that the exercise you do is during the day and not within two to three hours of retiring to sleep.
Image: just a little daily exercise can have a positive effect on your sleep patterns
2. Create a nest
Think of your bedroom as a sanctuary you retreat to for rest. Keep it quiet, the lights low and the room cosy but cool. Try to avoid having screens in your bedroom; keep active, daytime activities for other rooms in the house.
3. Take the time to unwind
It’s a good idea to take it easy in the hour before bedtime and give your mind and body the chance to slow down and relax. Read, listen to music, meditate, or have a soothing bath or warm shower.
4. Keep it regular
Your body will respond better when you stick to a regular schedule of sleep and wake times. When you wake at the same time each morning, you’ll set up good sleep cycle patterns – which is essential for healthy physical and mental function during the day. Get out in the daylight as soon as you can after getting up, it will help to regulate your body clock.
5. Go easy on caffeine and alcohol
It’s natural to enjoy a glass of wine or beer with dinner but try to limit your intake of alcohol in the evening hours before bedtime. The same goes for caffeinated drinks and food, and nicotine. All of these act as stimulants to the brain, which can disrupt the quality of your sleep.
Image: try to avoid your phone and computer before you go to bed
6. Watch those screens
Try to avoid using your computer, phone and other digital devices for at least half an hour before bedtime. The blue light screens omit can affect your melatonin levels and disrupt your sleep cycle.
7. Try a little meditation
Taking some time to meditate or to do a few yoga positions before bedtime can help signal to your brain that it’s time for sleep. There are some great meditation and calming apps available to help guide you.
Image: a glass of warm milk before bed can help you sleep
8. Warm milk
It feels like something young children or grandparents do, but a warm mug of milk before bed can aid sleep. That’s because milk contains tryptophan, which can induce a sleepy feeling, naturally. So if all else fails, give it a go!
9. Try not to stress about it
Sometimes, no matter how much preparation has gone in to a perfect night’s sleep, it just doesn’t come. If you’re lying in bed worrying about not getting to sleep, it’s unlikely that it’ll come in a hurry. Don’t worry. Get up, have a warm caffeine-free drink and it can help to write down any worries that have been on your mind. Try again in a while and hopefully, those zzzz’s come your way.
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