6 Ways To Get Restful Sleep
Sleep. It’s the most natural and effortless thing in the world. It’s something we all need, cherish and crave more of. Getting that right amount of shut-eye can do wonders to our minds, bodies and general wellbeing.
It helps us to see the world in a better light and tackle life’s competing demands – be it our busy work schedules and/or family responsibilities – with more ease and composure.
Snoozing off is quite important and beneficial as it is one the foundations of good health, the time when the body heals, repairs and rejuvenates.
Dr. Guy Meadows, a leading expert at The Sleep School in London, argues that a good night’s sleep helps to boost our immune system, regulate our hormones which in turn “helps us to maintain a healthy weight,” and regulate our mood by “combating feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.” It can also sharpen our attention and benefit our memory.
According to the World Association of Sleep Medicine, the three elements of good quality sleep are duration, continuity and depth.
Most people need between six and nine hours of sleep per night according to the NHS. Some can function effectively on less sleep. It’s highly individual. Each person is different but as long as you have enough to make you feel refreshed and alert the next day, you’re having the amount that is right for you.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ostensibly lived on only four hours a night and looked at what she accomplished.
According to The Sleep Council, a non-profit organisation that provides advice on good sleep, the average Brit gets six-and-a-half hours of sleep a night. And our French counterparts across the Channel have a similar sleep pattern, about six hours and 48 minutes a night, according to the French National Institute of Sleep.
Not surprisingly, a national survey in the United States found that Friday and Saturday nights provided the most restful sleep while Sunday was the least conducive for dozing off peacefully. No wonder, we’re heading back to work the next day and the juggling act is starting up again!
Shutting off that mental chatter, clearing the mind of overactive thoughts and curbing anxious feelings can sometimes be challenging. After all, there is nothing more frustrating than a restless night – lying in bed staring at the ceiling counting sheep or tossing and turning wondering when we’ll drift off, when all we want it just to go to sleep.
Flopping around like a fish unable to turn off can be quite maddening but it seems more than 30% of Brits ostensibly suffer from sleep issues, including insomnia. While in the United States, 70% of people are estimated to be sleep deprived and 60% have experienced insomnia in any given year, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
When you are not getting enough sleep, your cortisol levels rise and this can in turn have some worrying effects on the body. Experts say it can lead to unhealthy eating habits and in turn weight gain or obesity. They also content that we risk exposing yourself to such ailments as reduced immunity, heart disease, diabetes, accidents and depression.
Here are some things you can do to get a better night’s sleep:
1. Hide your alarm clock
Sleep experts agree on this one. Remove your clock from view. Calculating how many hours or minutes you have left to sleep will only worry or frustrate you.
Dr. Guy Meadows, author of The Sleep Book: How to Sleep Well Every Night, suggests to “let go of worrying thoughts about the time, and you’ll let go of the need to constantly check the clock.”
Staring at it will only make your insomnia worse as you will be “putting added pressure on yourself and creating a more stressful environment,” advised Dr. Sonia Ancoli-Israel, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, on the CNN website.
A better option, she argued, is to “put it under your bed or in a drawer,” where you won’t be “tempted to glance at it every five minutes.”
2. Turn off all that technology
We now live in a world where we are connected 24/7. We’ve learnt to love and hate technology. But when it comes to getting a good night’s rest or curbing insomnia, experts say it’s imperative that we stop the mental traffic and usher in a calmer state of mind. So switch yourself off one hour before bedtime.
Don’t curl up into bed with your smartphone, Ipad, laptop or e-reader just before going to sleep. The reason is that light exposure in the evening, particularly from blue frequencies can trick the brain into thinking it is still daytime. A recent American study found that using electronic devices one hour before bedtime “acutely suppresses melatonin,” a hormone that helps to promote sleep.
Go old school and read a book – the printed-paper variety – instead.
3. Make a “to do” list
It can be rush hour off up there given all the pressures of modern life. When you have so much to do and to think about, it’s no wonder that your sleep can likely be affected.
So make a “to do” list for the next day. Write it all down before going to bed and reduce the worry. This “will free up your mind and energy to move into deep and restful sleep,” argues American Dr. Mark Hyman on his blog.
The Mayo Clinic in the United States suggests this can “help restore peace” and “manage stress.” By jotting it down, setting your priorities, plotting your next day’s workload and getting organised, you will set it aside for tomorrow and avoid distractions.
4. Use relaxation techniques
This implies yoga, meditation and a warm bath or shower.
Using breathing exercises and yoga poses such as lying on your back with your legs up against the wall will not only help you to relax but also reduce the mental traffic and prepare you for sleeping. It’s important not to exercise vigorously right before bed as it you might be too energised to fall asleep.
A warm bath or shower will set an ideal body temperature for rest, thereby helping to induce sleep.
5. Create the right environment
Make your bedroom an oasis of calm and comfort. Invest in a good mattress and bedding that suit your taste. Are Egyptian cotton sheets or a heavy duvet your thing? How many times have we found ourselves in a hotel room somewhere not being able to sleep properly because the mattress was either too soft or too hard, and the sheets were either too starchy and the cover too light?
It’s important that you create an environment that is ideal for sleeping. Does this mean complete darkness? If so, draw the curtains. Also ensure that the temperature is right for you. You like it cool? Turn off the heating.
6. Avoid caffeine
Last, but not least, avoid caffeine.
It sounds obvious but it is definitely worth saying again. Not all of us are affected in the same way by caffeine. Some of us can have an espresso in the evening and get instant shut-eye regardless, while others will be wired and have trouble falling asleep if they do.
Studies found that avoiding caffeine six hours before going to bed will make it easier for us who are sensitive to it to doze off.
By Chantal Ouimet – Honestly Healthy online editor