Tips for better sleep
One thing that really impacts on our well-being is getting sufficient quality sleep. Yet many of us don't, and we go through life in a fog of mild sleep deprivation, which adversely affects our judgment, our relationships and even our physical health.
Driving when we are tired affects our alertness and can be a major cause of accidents. It has been suggested that the negative effect of sleep deprivation on our driving ability is comparable to driving under the influence of alcohol. And we all know what a big no-no that it. When we're tired our relationships can suffer too, as we are more inclined to react to a perceived slight or insult than to respond more thoughtfully in full awareness. Small irritations can become larger and before you know it, things have gone out of control.
As for our physical health, there are a host of effects on every system of the body. Sleep is necessary to refresh and restore both body and mind, and when we don't get enough, the whole organism suffers. It's even been suggested that lack of sleep is a factor in obesity!
Sleep must be very important, when you think that we are rendered unconscious for hours at a time every day, vulnerable to danger and unable to protect ourselves. If we are looking at it from an evolutionary point of view, there must be huge benefits to make such a risk worth it to the human organism!
So we know we really have to have it.
Great, I hear you say, but how do I get more of it?
Well here are ten tips to help you, in no particular order. Even if you only do one or two of them, small changes can have a huge impact.
- Don't have caffeinated drinks after midday. Lots of studies say that coffee is good for you, but maybe best kept to the mornings.
- Have your meal at least three hours before going to bed. It takes energy to digest a big meal and it makes it harder to sleep.
- Practice good sleep hygiene! That's more than just having clean bedding and remembering to wash the duvet three or four times a year. Have a bit of downtime before sleep, maybe a warm bath, to cue your system into anticipating sleep.
- No electronic screens in the bedroom, especially a smartphone, and definitely no TV!
- Have the room on the cool side, not too hot.
- Make sure the room is dark. You can always wear a sleep mask!
- If you have a snoring partner, wear earplugs or send them into the spare room!
- To help stop your mind running over problems in the night, have a notebook at your bedside where you can 'park' thoughts until the next day. This helps convince your brain that it is all right to go off duty, as the problem has been acknowledged.
- During the day get some physical exercise, if only a 15 minute walk or two.
- Try to get some natural light as well during the day, especially in the winter months.
Finally, if you want to use a sleep tracker, as many people do these days as part of monitoring fitness and activity, don't get too hung up about how many hours it says you're having. There's a certain satisfaction in seeing a nice row of eight hours sleep all week, but this may not be accurate, and in any case, we do tend to underestimate the amount of sleep we are getting. Our bodies generally know better than gadgets do, at least once we have learned to trust them.
Which of these suggestions do you think could make a difference to you?