After a long day of exhaustive activities, restful sleep is the only thing that keeps us away from a complete breakdown.
The embrace of cozy, neatly laid bed helps us with the rejuvenation we need to face another day.
But that always isn’t the case, is it?
We all claim we need the best of sleep, but we ignore the little things that are mandatory to enjoy that quantity and quality of sleep we hope for.
A recent report by Gallup revealed that Americans had 7.9 hours on average hours per night compared to 6.8 hours in 2013, which is a 13% decrease.
And we consistently ask ourselves what we are doing wrong. Take a deep breath and read how your sleep pattern can be improved with little changes you were never mindful of.
1. Exercise regularly – not before bed
A lot of us mistaken exercising regularly to mean every day. Not true. It means sticking to a particular routine at a particular time interval that works for you.
For someone, it could be twice every week. For another person, it can be three times in two weeks and that is regular.
The key, if you want to sleep better at night, is to pay attention to your body. And provide it with the right and moderate aerobics you need.
Exercising for even 20 to 30 minutes during the day with a simple aerobic routine will enhance your sleeping capacity.
“However, we do know that moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow-wave sleep you get. Slow-wave sleep refers to deep sleep, where the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate. Exercise can also help to stabilize your mood and decompress the mind’, says John Hopkins Medicine.
2. Create a sleep-inducing environment
The perfect bedroom doesn’t happen by chance. It needs to be intentional in the process of decorating your home. But here’s the problem: the bedroom is the last place we think about when it comes to sleep!
(And this is disappointing)
Because several studies have shown how factors like the type of bedroom light and the color of your bedroom walls are important for a good sleep.
For example, have dim lights or blackout curtains. Or you can paint your bedroom blue or moss green and even pale yellow.
Or yet, you want to keep the temperature of your room between 60 and 75°F. Above all else, make sure there’s enough room circulating in the room.
3. Keep a consistent sleep schedule
Work seems to be the one thing that takes up a greater portion of every other weekday. And on weekends, we try to make up for lost time with our friends, family, and other equally important activities.
But then again, sleep seems to be the one thing that we don’t seem to make adequate time for.
This routine tends to give the body and mind a definite start and finish time for the completion of the rejuvenation process.
To have a better chance of sleeping well, we need to strive to develop and maintain a sleep routine. Routines are habits too.
And if you’ve been struggling to find a good routine, I’d encourage you to read Charles Duhigg’s standout book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.
A good way is to have specific times to call it a day (or a time when you stop working).
4. Revise your nap time plan
What a wonderful feeling it is to have some time of the day dedicated to just a little bit of sleep.
I love my afternoon naps. But here’s something else:
Napping at the wrong time can affect our night’s sleep. The simple rule is to nap early or not all. Napping should be done preferably before 4 pm or even 5 pm so as not to interfere with your night’s sleep.
5. Unwind before bed
Right from the very second, we wake up, the mind and body shift to 100 percent, in full working gear. The problem? Most of us jump into bed still in that work-mode gear.
Unwinding is the only way to steadily prep your body and mind to relax and get it ready for bed.
6. Avoid large meals and beverages at night
For most of us, our work schedules during the day making it almost impossible to have breaks to eat. And so we try to make up for this by eating large when we get home in the night.
This habit, which needless to say is not healthy, in turn, causes indigestion and disrupts our sleep.
To break this habit, it is either we have to make time for eating well during the day or stick to healthy snacks in the evenings to help get a better night sleep.
7. Avoid caffeine in the evening
When we drink coffee or any beverage with caffeine in the mornings, it helps us stay active during the day and through our line of work.
However, if you take this 6 hours before sleep, you’d likely find it difficult to sleep earlier. And this could also mean lessening the quality of sleep we wish to have.
8. Turn off all electronics
Mobile phones, TVs, laptops, iPads all tend to be great distractions when it comes to getting ready to sleep.
A recent report by Nielsen found that consumers spend three hours and 48 minutes a day on digital mediums.
At one point or another, we find ourselves playing video games, or busily scrolling through our Instagram feeds. Don’t do this.
That takes up much time than we even realize. Also, it’s difficult to stick to a sleep schedule if you’re constantly distracted by your phone and social media.
I particularly like the ideas in Cal Newport’s book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World about dealing with distractions. Turn all these off or keep them in a different room when it is time to sleep to reduce any form of distraction.
9. Adjust your sleeping position
In one research, Professor Chris Idzikowsk surveyed 1,000 participants to analyze the six most common sleeping positions.
There are back sleepers, stomach sleepers, and side sleepers. But it turns out that the group of people who seem to have the best of sleep is the side sleepers.
Here’s why sleeping on your side can be helpful: It keeps your airways unobstructed all night long. In addition, your neck is well positioned and there is aided digestion.
Paying attention to your sleep position may unlock a new journey to sleep better.
10. Avoid over-the-counter medications
After battling with sleeplessness for a long while, most of us decide to visit the nearest chemical shop to get ourselves medications without seeing a doctor first.
The chances of getting worse after taking these drugs could be high so why not see a doctor instead.
11. Pay attention to your sleep environment
It is at our sleep time that all our worries seem to overwhelm us from all angles. We should try as much as possible to stay away from worrying about everything, especially before our sleep time.
Also, do all you can not force yourself to sleep, it can leave you frustrated leading to a lot of tossing and turning.
12. Cut down on the Sugar
Sugar has almost become the drug of every meal or beverage. Even though it is known to boost our energy and helps keeps us active, it does that in the short term and wears off very quickly.
Daily intake of high sugar foods can lead to an increase in blood sugar which is not good for our health and leads to sleep deprivation. Eating too much sugar can ruin your sleep.
13. Avoid alcohol before sleeping
Although alcohol helps people to sleep faster, it adversely affects the quality of sleep they are supposed to enjoy. It has many negative effects such as blockage of REM sleep, breathing problems and snoring which can be explained medically.
“Alcohol tricks people into thinking they are getting better sleep,” says Scott Krakower, DO.
He is an addiction specialist at North Shore-LIJ in Mineola, N.Y. “People who drink alcohol often think their sleep is improved, but it is not.”
14. Avoid taking liquids before bed
How annoying is it to wake up several times only to go and urinate in the middle of your sleep? Very annoying.
Little do we know that it is because of the time we take in anything liquid before bed that causes this. Ideally, we are not to take anything liquid between an hour or two before bed. Doing otherwise increases our chances of waking up to urinate.
Also, it is advisable to urinate immediately before bed to reduce this habit of waking up to urinate in the middle of the night.
15. Stop looking at the clock
As funny as it may sound, constantly looking at the clock when we cannot sleep often makes it even more difficult to go to fall asleep.
This habit creates anxiety. And in turn, anxiety inhibits the process of sleep because the mind can’t calm itself.
16. Eat foods rich in magnesium
The mineral magnesium is a natural sedative that helps induce sleep. Some deficiencies of magnesium include difficulty sleeping, constipation, cramps, anxiety, irritability, and pain.
Foods rich in magnesium are legumes and seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, and whole grains.
In addition to including these whole foods in your diet, you can also try juicing dark leafy green vegetables for better results.
17. See a doctor
Just in case all these do not work for you at helping you enjoy your sleep better, make your way to see your doctor.
This will help you find improved solutions for your problem.
Sleep is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. And following through with one or two of these will surely leave you sleeping at peace than you could ever imagine.
Stay healthy. Sleep healthy.