We live in a sleep-deprived world. A hundred years ago we slept 8-9 hours a night, now we average 6-7 hours a night. studies indicate that improving the quantity and quality has a more significant effect on overall health than either diet or exercise! Many people are unaware of how essential it is to get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. When work or school deadlines arise, many consider staying up late or “pulling an all-nighter” an efficient way to get everything done. When considering lifestyle changes for brain health, one of the most important aspects to consider is sleep. We tend to not get enough sleep and our brains run on fatigue much of the time, as a result, our brains are over-stimulated, stressed, and tired.
1. Get a sleep schedule
Go to bed at a set time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Disrupting this schedule may lead to insomnia. “Sleeping in” on weekends also makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it re-sets your sleep cycles for a later awakening. Do not nap within 8 hours of bedtime.
2. Avoid Caffeine before bed
Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, which acts as a stimulant and keeps people awake. Sources of caffeine include coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, non-herbal teas, diet drugs, and some pain relievers. Smokers tend to sleep very lightly and often wake up in the early morning due to nicotine withdrawal. Alcohol robs people of deep sleep and REM sleep and keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep. Avoid all of these things at least 6 to 8 hours before sleeping if you want a good night’s sleep. Also, try to avoid eating any kind of large meal within two hours of bedtime.
3. Resist using technology in bed
It is not uncommon for people to lie in bed and scroll through social media on their phone just before going to sleep. This is made even easier when your phone is charging next to your bed. The problem is that the light from our devices is "short-wavelength-enriched", meaning it has a higher concentration of blue light than natural light. Blue light lowers the levels of the hormone melatonin, which is sleep-inducing. Blue light essentially tricks your body into thinking it is daytime, resulting in difficulty falling asleep.
4. Make sure you have a good mattress
It can be much harder to get yourself off to sleep if you are worried that you are worried that you're going to be tossing and turning just a few short hours from now, so try to stop yourself waking up a lot in the night. One of the main causes of waking in the night is through back pain, so try to minimise this by buying a decent mattress - and make sure you change your mattress every 8-10 years. Also taking an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen before you go to bed can help ease muscle spasms in the night.
5. Avoid Alcohol
Many people think of alcohol as a sedative. Indeed, it does appear to help induce sleep. However, your sleep will be less restful and more disrupted. Alcohol can increase the number of times you wake up throughout the night and it stops you from getting the deep sleep you need to feel rested in the morning. Alcohol is also a diuretic and can cause you to wake up several times during the night to urinate.
6. Write down your worries
Once your head hits the pillow, problems of the day can start racing through your mind making sleep impossible. One way to stop this is to keep a pen and pad of paper by your bedside. Jot down your thoughts and worries and promise yourself you will address them in the morning.
Exercise can help you to enjoy a better quality of sleep. Working out effectively can tire your body out gently, promoting a better night’s sleep. Releasing pent up tension through exercise is also highly beneficial, helping to banish stress before bedtime. Exercising also lowers your body’s temperature, which induces better sleep. When it comes to exercise, the most important thing is to feel fitter and healthier. If you are experiencing sleeping problems, try to exercise a little more or change the type of activities you do. Yoga is renowned for its relaxation and sleep benefits, while moderate-aerobic exercise like walking has been found to help people fall asleep more quickly.
8. Have a bed time routine
Sleep rituals should include quiet activities in the brief period before bedtime. How much time you spend unwinding may vary. If you fall asleep immediately on most nights, you may not need much time to transition. However, if you suffer from insomnia or have trouble with your mind racing as you try to fall asleep, a longer period of sleep rituals may be helpful. In general, 30 to 60 minutes will likely be sufficient. Activities such as having a long bath, doing some yoga or meditation, using a sleep balm and room spray and reading a book can help relax your body and mind helping you to sleep better.