To sleep, perchance to dream…
There are several variables which affect our ability to enjoy a quality night’s sleep. The bed is one of course, but the sleeping environment and your own state of being also have an impact on getting a perfect sleep.
Experts recommend that you develop your own sleep routine to help ease your mind and soul into sleep. Begin around 30 minutes before you’ll go to bed and take your time as you go through the things you’d normally do before bed. Brushing your teeth, setting your alarm, stacking the dishes… You want to just slow your body down and clear your head of those thoughts from the day so you’ll go to your bed relaxed and calm.
Your bedroom itself needs to be dark, a factor that activates the release of the sleep hormone melatonin at higher levels. It’s also wise to invest in a bed large enough that you can stretch and turn without coming into contact with its edges. Choose a mattress that allows you or your partner to make movements that will be isolated, so you’ll both be undisturbed regardless of how wriggly those next to you are.
Bump in the Night
During sleep, bursts of high-frequency brain activity produce “sleep spindles” (they look a bit like a full spindle on a spinning wheel). These spindles block noise and other sensory information from being registered in the brain while we sleep. As we age we produce fewer of these spindles, and thus are more susceptible to noises in the sleeping environment. If you notice that you are waking up more frequently than you used to, you might want to experiment by trying earplugs or, in extreme cases, looking into acoustic insulation tiles or solutions.
A Bite Tonight
To rebuild and replenish itself the body needs fuel. And being hungry has a negative effect on the brain’s ability to enter a restful state. A glass of warm milk, light meal or quick sandwich with honey will help to fill that void and promote sleep.
Avoid large amounts of caffeine in the period running up to bed. Caffeine levels of more than 4-500mg in the body will not only make falling asleep harder but may see you waking up during the night and earlier in the morning too. If you wish to monitor your intake a cup of tea or coffee contains approximately 100mg of caffeine. Alcohol and nicotine are also culprits for sleep disruption; reducing the periods of NREM and REM sleep.
Get in Synch
Our bodies respond well to structure and routine and nowhere is this more applicable than bedtime. Try to establish a pattern of going to bed at a specific time and waking up at a specific time. A sleep routine will help your body optimize its ‘circadian rhythm’—which is an internal 24-hour cycle that all living beings have. Your circadian rhythm tells your body and mind when to do specific things (like sleep, repair itself, wake up…). Stick to a regular pattern of waking and sleeping at a specific time and your body and mind will thank you.
Wake Up. Do Something.
It’s not just going to sleep at a regular time that optimizes the body’s circadian rhythm. What you do when you wake up will pay dividends too. Chronobiological (the study of circadian rhythm) research reveals that the body really benefits from waking up and activating itself as soon as possible. Some light exercise to get the blood pumping or a brisk walk outside will have you firing on all cylinders in no time. Repeat the process and you’ll find your waking up is almost as eagerly anticipated as going to bed.
Everyone has nights when you just can’t nod off—those times when you’ve too many thoughts going through your mind, or are stressed about a forthcoming meeting, or can’t stop assessing what happened during the day. It happens. And it’s hard to force sleep. So get up, read a book, do something to divert the mind, or write your thoughts down for the morning. Use these easy-to-apply diversion tactics to help clear and settle the mind.
If you do find your sleep is being disturbed often or that you find it hard falling asleep then a visit to the doctor may well be in order. There are many conditions that affect the quality of our sleep which a doctor can help you overcome.