We all know when we have had a bad night’s sleep. It may start with an early-to-bed routine and before we count to ten, it is lights out. Then, after a couple of hours it seems all over as we wake restless from our slumbers and what follows next is too awful to contemplate – we cannot get back to sleep. A lot depends on your state of mind when you head to bed in expectation of a good night’s sleep. A positive approach will help overcome most problems.
For example, an anxious mind is a restless one and you need to be able to put the stresses of the day aside before you head for dream world. Yes, and health is a factor too, so if you suffer from tossing and turning struggles to slide into a decent sleeping pattern you may need to consult your doctor and research the underlying issues if the problem persists. Here, we review a few pointers that may assist you get a good night’s sleep, something each of us needs.
1. Stick to a Regular Nightly Sleeping Pattern
Your sleeping pattern should be regular. For example, if you are a shift-worker, this will not prove easy because maintaining a regular routine is impossible, given that work times change from day to night shift, and anything in between. Not only that, shifts destroy our normal socialising patterns simply because of our not being there when others are. Try to keep a regular bedtime slot and, where possible avoid so-called power sleeps or daytime naps – these just confuse the mental time clock and usually result in sleep deprivation at night.
2. Beware of Night Lights
Following on from the above advice, research into the effects of electric lighting on our sleep-wake cycles has literally exploded recently. Once exposed to light at night, it shifts the biological clock around. Light can in fact act as an acute stimulant, so it alerts the brain. Light triggers an increase in heart rate, body temperature and brain activity level. It also suppresses production of melatonin, the hormone that tells the body it is dark and time to go to sleep.
3. Avoid Changing Sleeping Routines at Weekends and Holidays
This is a tough call because most of us just love the notion of catching up with “lost sleep” on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday morning. According to research, sleeping-in throws your biological clock and can leave you feeling more tired as you return to your normal get-up routine on Monday. To avoid drowsiness during the week, try to keep going to bed and waking up at the same time every night and morning. Quite soon, you will find your internal clock adjusting to the routine and you may not even need an alarm clock to announce it is time to get up. If you feel the need to change sleeping routines, do so in small step-changes over a period of days; 15-minute adjustments are good until you achieve your new sleeping pattern.
4. Reduce the Ambient Temperature in your Bedroom
Even in the winter, it makes good sense to keep your bedroom a little cooler than the rest of the house. Why, you ask? Because the lower temperature assists a better sleep. According to research, a slight drop in body temperature induces sleeping. Not only that, but temperature can also affect your rapid eye movement / REM cycle (when you dream). Think of it along the lines of a cooler environment promoting “sleep mode” in your mind. When we visit warmer climates we automatically ask for air-conditioners or fans at very least, and this suggests that we sleep better with a lower ambient temperature. Think of it as entering a hibernation phase, if only for the night.
5. Chemical Reactions
Alcohol and caffeine are two of the definite “do nots” before retiring for the night because they are stimulants. Remember too that the same applies to spiced foods, which can play mind-tricks through our stomachs while we sleep. If you are on medication, follow the doctor’s orders to the letter and preferably discuss the implications beforehand. Certain non-alcoholic cold drinks – no names mentioned – contain high levels of caffeine, so be wary.
The message is clear; watch your food intake carefully before heading to bed and avoid taking in anything potentially harmful at the last minute. We have to manage our lives as best we can and taking control of our diets and feeding regimes forms part and parcel of garnering a good night’s sleep. Remember too that we sleep for one-third of our lives, which means that we need to gain maximum benefit from our “shut eye” experience. Nothing beats a good night’s sleep, so be sure to enjoy Sweet Dreams!